Miami Heat (16-6) vs. Dallas Mavericks (12-13)


How in God’s name does a team get out-rebounded 52-24 and yet win convincingly? It doesn’t make much sense and flies in the face of one of the basic tenets of basketball, not to mention one of the keystones of my NBA 2K13 team. But the Miami Heat pulled it off, winning with speed and awesomeness over the Minnesota Timberwolves’ strength and grit. And Europeans. The ‘Wolves run that part of the game.

Miami forced 21 turnovers in the game and despite having no paint-sealing presence had 14 blocks in the game. Basically, they disrupted the ‘Wolves and made basketball no fun to play. It’s how this team has to win because they have such rebounding deficiencies. It’s a little bit tougher to do, but it’s a blast to watch. So much running and dunking. What more could a guy want?

A one game trip to Texas faces the Heat on Thursday to face the Dallas Mavericks. In case you didn’t already know, this is not the Mavericks that off’d the Heat in the 2011 Finals. Of the top players in minutes played from the 2010-11 roster, only Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki are left, and Dirk hasn’t played a minute yet this season because of off-season knee surgery. Mavs owner Mark Cuban is a curious guy, but this blowing up a championship team is more than just curious. If I were Dirk I’d be a little bit pissed. They made a couple neat seaming acquisitions Like Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, OJ Mayo and Darren Collison, so they could be good. They just need Dirk to come back from that knee problem. Could they win a title? Maybe, they’re not defending spectacularly well and obviously everyone has had to take on extra work with the big German out, so maybe once he does return and round into playing shape they can settle in. Those pieces could be dangerous. Right now though they’re just a team struggling to break .500.

What happened last time: These two old foes last met on March 29th, a 106-85 Heat victory. In one of those games where everyone clicked at the same time, nobody on Miami scored more than 19. LeBron led the way with 19 points, nine boards and five assists, Bosh followed with 19-9 and both Wade and Haslem had 16. A good team win. Dirk led the Mavs with 25 on 9-of-19 shooting and of all people Lamar Odom was second on the team with 12. The Heat won because of a 36 point second quarter, then in the second half the defense locked down, keeping Dallas to 19 and 13 points.

Who to watch for: With Dirk out the Maverick offense is run though OJ Mayo. After playing something like fourth fiddle in Memphis, Mayo leads the team in minutes and is scoring 20.6 per game on 48% shooting. It’s his .519 three-point shooting that’s the most insane. That number has to come down eventually, right? Chris Kaman has stayed healthy while giving 14.6 points and 6.5 boards a game. Once Dirk comes back he’ll have more space, probably more rebounds since the paint won’t be so stuffed, and they’ll form the most fearsome German frontcourt in the game. Darren Collison came over from Indiana and he could be good, they just don’t have their number one option so he’s forced to create more on offense, not his strongest suit. Until then though, this is a team with a great coach in Rick Carlisle that has to grind out wins. They could be a real threat in the playoffs.

For Miami, it looks like Norris Cole is coming around and played some great defense against Minnesota. I’m as happy as anyone, especially considering my plaintive article about him recently. It will be interesting to see what Coach Spoelstra does with the rotation considering the lack of powerful size for the Mavs and their scoring problems. Perhaps Rashard Lewis will get a run. Haslem got only 18 minutes despite starting, plainly Spo is more comfortable with Shane Battier and with no legit PF for Dallas right now Shane should get some work in too.

Why the Heat will win: The Mavericks don’t have the defensive intensity that helped them win the championship because Tyson Chandler is gone. WIthout him they don’t have a ton of rim protection or rebounding (Marion at 7.9 and Kaman lead th team) and they don’t have a ton of scoring either with Nowitzki. This is a team that is relying on Vince Carter to do more than just give a bit of scoring now and then, and they are not nearly as good as the Heat. Miami can overwhelm them with power and speed, and should.

Why the Heat will lose: Mayo somehow shoots above his average from beyond the arc, Carlisle proves he knows secrets about the Heat that show how to beat them, and the “we don’t play the first quarter” version of Miami shows up. If it weren’t for those odd losses earlier in the season, this would be an assured game. But these guys are jerks (Miami I mean) so nothing’s assured.

Prediction: 112 – 96, Miami. Like I said, they should overwhelm the Mavericks, even if it is in Dallas. The line is Miami -10, and the Heat should more than cover that, especially if Wade keeps in this groove he’s in and LeBron plays anywhere near as efficient as Tuesday.