Heat's next 2 games will provide some much-needed answers

Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat
Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

The Miami Heat’s next two games will provide an important test for what has been the league’s No. 2 defense since the beginning of February.

The Heat’s next two games will come against two of the top offenses in the league.

On Thursday, the Heat will travel to Dallas to face the Mavericks, who are seventh in offensive rating. On Friday, the Heat will go to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder, who are third in offensive rating.

The Miami Heat will face two of the top seven offenses in the league in their upcoming back-to-back set.

The Mavericks are led by MVP candidate Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, but the Heat meet them amid a slump as they have also lost five of their last seven games. But offense has not been Dallas’ problem during this stretch.

The Thunder are also led by an MVP candidate in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and lead the league in 3-point shooting percentage (39.5%). Gilgeous-Alexander and burgeoning star teammates Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams have led Oklahoma City to a tie for the top record in the West.

ESPN’s Chris Herring recently compared this Thunder team to the 73-win Warriors. 

"As the second-youngest team in the league, Oklahoma City isn't quite at that level yet. Still, the similarities should be terrifying to the rest of the league. At 39.6%, the Thunder shoot the three better than any other team. And with a 56.7% effective field goal rate on jumpers, they recently pulled ahead of the 73-win 2015-16 Warriors, who had held the best mark in the shot-tracking era, according to ESPN's Stats & Info. Much like Golden State, they rarely run pick-and-roll sets, despite being the most efficient team in the league when they do. Instead, they have their guards do the dirty work -- similar to the Dubs."

This is as difficult a back-to-back set on the road as could be for the Heat, who have won 11 of their last 14 games. Miami’s last five games, however, have mostly come against weaker offensive teams. Outside of a game against the Denver Nuggets (10th in offensive rating), the Heat faced the Sacramento Kings (14th), Portland Trail Blazers (28th), Utah Jazz (15th) and Detroit Pistons (25th). 

That game in Denver, like the upcoming games in Dallas and Oklahoma City, was also a test for the Heat. Although they lost, the Heat did hold the Nuggets to an offensive rating of 103 points per 100 possessions, down from their season rate of 117.

The Heat’s defense hopes to do a similarly effective job against the Mavericks and the Thunder, not just to keep pace in the East standings but also to prove that this defense – which has been up and down this season – is ready for the playoffs.

Heat injury updates

Tyler Herro (right foot) and Kevin Love (right heel) are ruled out for Thursday’s game in Dallas and did not travel with the team and will miss Friday’s game, too.

Caleb Martin is available while dealing with a left thumb sprain.

Josh Richardson is expected to miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery for his right shoulder. You can read more about that here.