Following All-Star break, Mavs shift focus to defending champion Heat

Practice Report: Dirk Nowitzki

Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki dishes on his All-Star experience, how the team is preparing for the second half of the season, whether he still feels animosity toward the Heat, the importance of Tuesday night's game and more.

DALLAS — After arguably their best win of the season heading into the All-Star break, the Dallas Mavericks face the most daunting of tasks Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.

Finishing the first portion of the season with six wins in their final seven games, the Mavericks (32-22) returned to the practice court Monday still flying high after outlasting the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers en route to an 81-73 road victory last Wednesday. However, returning to action in their first game since the break, yet another challenge looms as the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat travel to Dallas.

“It’s not easy, but we’ve had some tough games lately,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said while turning his attention to Tuesday’s matchup against the Heat. “You know, we just came off the Indiana game and that’s as tough as they come, too. So, you know, these kinds of tests you’ve got to look forward to and embrace them.”

He added: “We played well (in Indiana) and it was great, but it’s over and we have to look forward now to Miami, who has played extremely well. They’ve won back-to-back games in Phoenix and Golden State, which is very hard to do. And they’re coming off the break, too, so it’s an interesting matchup.”

Displaying a strong defensive presence and stifling the Pacers to just 32.1 percent shooting, the Mavericks will attempt to do the same thing against four-time MVP LeBron James and the Heat’s high-octane attack. The Dallas defense will again be asked to step up to the challenge in order to end a five-game losing skid against the Heat (37-14), with James averaging 30.2 points and shooting 61.6 percent during that span.

Practice Report: Rick Carlisle

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle looks ahead to Tuesday night's game against the Heat, gearing up for the second half of the season and more.

Stopping James and the Heat may be easier said than done but it will be necessary, according to 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, as the Mavs try to avenge a 110-104 road loss back on Nov. 15.

“We competed a lot harder on defense against one of the best teams in the league and we stole one on the road (in Indiana), so that was a good feeling going into the break,” Nowitzki said after returning from his 12th All-Star appearance. “But, you know, there’s really nothing to rest on or sit on and be happy about. We’ve got the champs coming in tomorrow and they’ve been playing well. They won out West a bunch of games I saw, so they’re ready to roll.”

The Mavericks hope to also be ready to roll before embarking on a three-game road trip.

Note: The Mavs return to American Airlines Center on Tuesday, facing off against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. Miami leads the season series 1-0 after handing Dallas a 110-104 road loss back on Nov. 15. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting