MIAMI — Despite playing without three of their expected contributors coming into the season, the Dallas Mavericks entered Friday night’s matchup in Miami with the same 5-3 record as the two-time defending champion Heat.
Playing the first eight games without veteran point guard Devin Harris (toe surgery), big man Brandan Wright (fractured left shoulder) and rookie first-rounder Shane Larkin (ankle surgery), the Mavericks stepped into American Airlines Arena ready to show that their start to the 82-game schedule was just a glimpse into more things to come.
The Mavs then tried to end a four-game losing to the Heat, who was playing without the services of sharpshooter Ray Allen (flu) and forward Udonis Haslem (back spasms). But despite a valiant fight led by 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks (5-4) would begin their back-to-back in the state of Florida with a 110-104 defeat, after their own miscues eventually led to their demise against the defending champions.
“I thought we moved the ball fine, we scored fine, and it was a fun game. It’s fun to compete at the highest level against the champs, but we’ve just got to be a little better,” Nowitzki said while summing up the loss.
One game after passing Jerry West (25,192) for 16th place on the league’s all-time scoring list, Nowitzki got the Mavs off to a quick start with back-to-back 3-pointers to open the scoring. Starting point guard Jose Calderon then followed suit, getting the Mavericks off to a 9-4 start in the first quarter.
Nowitzki’s third 3-pointer of the period then not only gave the Mavs a 17-10 advantage, but it also forced a Miami timeout with 6:57 left in the first. But four-time MVP LeBron James would then begin to assert himself, scoring 13 points in the quarter to outduel Nowitzki’s 12 points at the other end. Still, thanks to backup big man DeJuan Blair’s tip-in to beat the buzzer, the Mavs slid into the second stanza up one, 32-31.
“Obviously, coming into this building we knew we had to get off to a good start,” Nowitzki explained. “We got off to a good start there. … But we didn’t quite use that hot start enough to get into the second quarter.”
Behind its bench and Dallas’ turnovers, the Miami team took control of the scoreboard early in the second period despite Mavs sixth man Vince Carter’s and Blair’s best efforts. Frustration would then boil over for Mavs coach Rick Carlisle as he was assessed a technical foul for arguing with officials with 2:57 remaining in the first half.
Carlisle soon would see his team fall into a double-digit hole while Dwyane Wade took over the Heat’s offensive attack. The Heat then took a 60-51 advantage into the halftime intermission.
“I thought we played three really good quarters, and the second quarter was not good,” Carlisle later confessed. “The turnovers were our undoing.”
Despite 25 points on a combined 8-of-12 shooting from the duo of Nowitzki and 2-guard Monta Ellis, the Mavericks found themselves down at the break while James and Wade combined for 31 points on 12-of-16 from the field. The Heat (6-3) also outshot the Mavs as a team through two quarters, 59 percent to 47.5 percent, in addition to 16 points off Dallas’ 13 first-half turnovers.
With his team in need of a lift after falling down by as much as 13, Nowitzki would provide it when Heat forward Shane Battier fouled the 7-footer on a 3-point attempt with 7:10 left in the third quarter. Calderon then stepped back into the scoring, draining a 3-pointer from the wing to bring the Mavs within four, 68-64.
The Mavs then moved into the penalty after a fifth Miami foul with 3:37 in the third, allowing the visiting team to creep closer before another of Calderon’s triples put his team up 72-70. But James would lead the Heat on a furious rally to close the period from there, draining a jumper to put the Mavs in an 86-78 deficit entering the fourth.
Battling back after the Heat went ahead by 10 in the early minutes of the fourth, the Mavs would find themselves down six, 93-87, with 8:52 left on the game clock after Heat forward Rashard Lewis answered Calderon’s fourth 3-pointer of the night. Carter answered right back, draining a jumper to force a Miami timeout with the Mavs down just three, 96-93, as 6:16 remained.
The Mavs then got life from Heat point guard Mario Chalmers’ ejection after a flagrant-2 foul on Nowitzki with 5:01 on the clock. But after Nowitzki brought the Mavericks within one the Heat would again respond as James kept Dallas at bay with an attacking score.
James’ steal and subsequent free throws after a Carter foul with 46.7 seconds left then put the game away as the Heat went ahead 106-99 before holding the Mavs off late with trips to the charity stripe.
“We’re a good team and we’re going to get better,” Calderon said while summing up the night. “It was one game. We couldn’t finish it, but we fought for 48 (minutes) and I think it was good effort out of everybody. LeBron hit at the end a couple of shots, we couldn’t execute as well as we’d like to … but this is one of the best teams and we can compete against them.”
Finishing with a season-high 28 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 3-of-5 from 3-point range, Nowitzki led four Mavs in double figures. Off the bench, Carter added 21 points and Ellis pitched in 20 points in the first unit. Calderon added 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting from long range.
Meanwhile, James led five Heat players in double figures with 39 points on 14-of-18 shooting, adding six rebounds and four assists.
“He was hitting some really high-difficulty shots. He’s probably he only guy in the game that can hit those shots, but you’ve got to make him do it. Otherwise, guys are lining up wide-open threes,” Carlisle said with respect to James’ night.
The Heat also outshot the Mavs, 54.1 percent to 50 percent, in addition to 24 points off Dallas’ season-high 24 turnovers. And both teams grabbed 34 rebounds on the night.
“We didn’t take care of the ball well enough to win the game, and we were still right there. It’s tough to win a game on the road with 24 turnovers,” Nowitzki concluded.
He added: “We’ve got to be a little better defensively, and you’ve got to be a little better taking care of the ball if you really want to steal one on the road.”
Note: On the second night of a back-to-back, the Mavericks will now head to Orlando for a meeting against the Magic on Saturday. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 6 p.m. CT.
The Mavs return home next Tuesday night against rookie Michael Carter-Williams and the Philadelphia 76ers. 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 Mavs.com.
|S. Marion, F||30||4-6||0-1||0-0||1||3||4||2||1||0||2||3||8||8|
|D. Nowitzki, F||35||8-12||3-5||9-10||0||6||6||3||2||1||5||3||-1||28|
|S. Dalembert, C||20||2-5||0-0||0-0||2||7||9||0||3||1||1||1||8||4|
|M. Ellis, G||41||7-16||2-6||4-6||0||3||3||4||1||0||5||4||-4||20|
|J. Calderon, G||35||4-10||4-9||0-0||0||1||1||5||0||0||3||1||8||12|
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|L. James, F||36||14-18||1-1||10-11||0||6||6||4||1||0||6||0||0||39|
|S. Battier, F||23||1-4||0-1||2-2||1||4||5||0||2||1||0||2||-6||4|
|C. Bosh, C||29||4-11||0-1||6-6||1||3||4||0||1||2||0||4||-9||14|
|D. Wade, G||36||7-14||0-0||3-7||1||4||5||8||8||0||0||2||0||17|
|M. Chalmers, G||24||2-8||0-3||0-0||0||2||2||3||1||1||4||3||-8||4|
|R. Mason Jr.||0||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
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MIAMI — Although the Dallas Mavericks enter their matchup against the Miami Heat with plenty of similarities, they also admit that they have much work to do in order to reach the two-time defending champion’s elite level.
Entering Friday night’s matchup to begin a back-to-back in the state of Florida, the Mavericks and Heat sit with an identical 5-3 record on the season. Both teams also rank fourth in the NBA in scoring offenses, putting up 106.8 points an outing, respectively.
But that’s where the similarities end, according to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, as he tries to get his team to play as a collective unit in order to stop the Heat’s Big Three of four-time MVP LeBron James, 2006 Finals MVP Dwyane Wade and All-Star big man Chris Bosh.
“They’re defending champions, so they’re a great team,” Carlisle said of the Heat after his team’s Thursday practice. “They’ve got a lot of playmakers, great 3-point shooting and they’re great defensively. They’re solid in every area and they’re dynamic. You’ve got to throw a hard 48 minutes at them, and you’ve got to be real smart and tough.”
Looking to build off back-to-back wins heading into American Airlines Arena, the Mavs hope to again rely on their defense to carry them to a victory.
The Dallas defense allowed a season-low scoring output last Saturday night in Milwaukee, leaving the Bucks’ home floor with a 91-83 victory for the Mavericks’ first road win of the season. Tuesday night, the Mavs held a third opponent below triple digits, improving to 4-0 at home for the first time since the ’07-08 campaign after a 105-95 victory over Washington.
“We’re getting better each and every game,” sixth man Vince Carter said of the defensive improvements over the last two games. “Our rotations are better. Our individual defense has been better. But just more than anything our help side and our team defense has been better, and it’s fueled our offense.”
Still, while squaring off against the likes of James, Wade and Bosh, Carlisle admits that his players will face a much more daunting task on the defensive end of the floor. And in order to prevail, the Mavericks will have to be collectively tied together as they attempt to neutralize the Heat’s many offensive weapons.
“We don’t have a bunch of individual stoppers. We’ve got [Shawn] Marion, who to me is perennial all-defense even though he never gets it. And we’ve got [Samuel] Dalembert, who is one of the best rim protectors. Then on the rest of the team there’s no guys on paper that you’d say is an NBA stopper. We have to do it by showing a crowd and bringing a lot of help and by being really tied together,” Carlisle explained.
Note: The Mavericks head back out on the road Friday night, beginning a Florida back-to-back in Miami against the two-time defending champion Heat. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 6:30 p.m.
The Mavs return home next Tuesday night against rookie Michael Carter-Williams and the Philadelphia 76ers. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.
On the game:
“Our effort was good. The turnovers doomed us.”
“Both teams were wrapping it up defensively but we (Dallas Mavericks) made some mistakes with the ball. We are all responsible for that. I am responsible too. And we will keep working to fix it.”
On LeBron James:
“It is tough to contain LeBron James. He was hitting some high-difficulty shots. He is probably the only guy in the game that can hit those shots but you have to make him do it. Otherwise other guys (Miami HEAT) are lining up wide open three-pointers.”
On the team:
“We are a good team. We are going to get better. It is one game. We couldn’t finish it, but we fought for 48 (minutes) and I think it was a good effort by everybody. We couldn’t execute as well as we would have liked to, but we have to bounce back tomorrow. It’s one of the best teams, champions the last two years. We can compete against them. We are going to be good. I like my team everyday a little bit more. We are doing good things out there. We have to clean up some stuff, but we have to keep positive.”
On guarding LeBron James:
“It’s tough for everybody. Sometimes it’s going to be the three. He can play every position. Other nights it is going to be another guy. It’s a team defense. I think we did a very good job against them for a long period of time, but we couldn’t finish at the end.”
On the turnovers:
“I think that says everything. At the beginning, the first half was terrible. We were like nine points down with 13 turnovers. That is just too many against this team. You know how they play. We should be a little more careful with the passes in the air. If we take care of that, it’s a six-point game.”
On holding onto the ball in key situations:
“It was tough. We played hard though. We’re like that sometimes. We just got to stay together. We have another one tomorrow. They are a great team. They are great at what they do. They trap, they force turnovers and run. I think we played a great game. They made a lot of contested shots. There is nothing you can do about that.”
“It is part of the game. We just have to go back to the drawing board and cut those down. We are right there. I think we still are coming together as a team. The good thing we can take away from this is we can go out and compete every night. We are going to win a lot of games. Turnovers are part of the game. We just have to limit them. We have another one tomorrow. We have to go to the drawing board and go from there.”
On taking something away from the game:
“If we go out and compete every night at this high level and turn our turnovers down, we can beat anybody in this league.”
“You took away the turnovers and it is our game. It speaks for itself. We have to be more patient and more focused on coming to the ball, stepping into the passes and stuff like that. If we don’t turn the ball over, we win.”
On bouncing back tomorrow:
“Shake it off. We have no choice. We have to make a good trip out of this. So we have to win tomorrow. It’s a .500 trip and at least we’re 1-1.”
On being close near the end of the game:
“I think it is a great sign. We have to stay optimistic and keep up with each other and we’ll be even better.”