After the way the Miami Heat picked his team apart Tuesday night at American Airlines Center, Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd had no problems stating what has become so obvious early in this NBA season.
“I would consider them the best team in the league right now,” Kidd said of the Heat, who ran their record to an impressive 6-1 after a 125-110 triumph over the Mavs. “You look at their defense. I compare it to the Chicago Bears’ ’95 defense. They’re playing at a very, very high level. They’ve been together and they know what it takes to win.”
While throwing one unfortunate haymaker at the Mavs after another on Tuesday, the Heat shot a sizzling 51.8 percent from the field and a red-hot 52 percent (13-of-25) from beyond the three-point arc. That sort of marksmanship was way too hot for the Mavs to handle.
That was particularly true since the Heat was attacking the Mavs from different angles. When Tyler Herro (25 points) and Kyle Lowry (22 points) weren’t burning the Mavs from the perimeter, it was Jimmy Butler (23 points) doing damage on the wing and Bam Adebayo (22 points, 13 boards) creating havoc and cleaning up things on the inside of the paint.
“It was tough, but our defense wasn’t the best today,” said Luka Doncic, who finished with 33 points and five assists. “We’ve got to work on that.”
Forwards Kristaps Porzingis (lower back tightness) and Maxi Kleber (left oblique strain) – two of the Mavs’ best rebounders – didn’t play Tuesday. Still, the Mavs led 30-24 after the first quarter, then made a series of blunders late in the second quarter that helped Miami go into the dressing room with a 70-62 lead at the game’s midway point.
Dwight Powell scored to make it 65-62 Miami, but missed a free throw and grabbed the offensive rebound with less than a minute remaining before intermission. Tim Hardaway Jr. (17 points) then misfired on a three-pointer, and Lowry calmly drained a bucket from downtown to put Miami up by six.
Another missed triple by Hardaway was followed by a layup from Dewayne Dedmon. That put the finishing touches on a second quarter in which the Heat outscored the Mavs, 46-32.
“That second quarter got away from us in transition,” Kidd said. “Herro got going and our transition defense wasn’t up to par.
“That was pretty much the game when you look at it as a whole. So we’ve got to look at once it’s makes or misses, teams are trying to push it and we have to locate their shooters, and we just didn’t do that in that second quarter.”
The Heat went on to build an 87-71 lead late in the third quarter, and the Mavs didn’t have enough answers after that.
Jalen Brunson started in the backcourt alongside Doncic, who had to give the ball up a lot because of the Heat’s trapping defense. That left Brunson with his fair share of running the offense.
“I feel like it’s something that we can get better at,” Brunson said. “They’re going to try and take the ball out of (Doncic’s) hands. He’s such a great player, great playmaker, so that’s what teams are going to do.
“I’ve got to make better decisions. I’ve got to put people in better positrons to be successful. I have no problem handling that role. It wasn’t effective enough.”
Brunson collected 25 points and seven rebounds, and was 10-fo-13 from the field, but knows he has to take some pressure off Doncic whenever teams run several players at the Mavs’ two-time All-Star.
“He’s going to draw a lot of attention,” Brunson said. “You just got to be ready to make plays – make plays for ourselves and others. We have the personnel to do that. We just didn’t do it tonight.”
“I just got to be aggressive every game,” said Doncic, who was 10-of-24 from the floor. “It’s tough. There’s so many games, but I’ve got to be more and more aggressive.
“I think that’s something I’m doing more and more, and that’s what I’ve got to do.”
What the Mavs have to do next is do to the Spurs what they did to them last Thursday in Dallas when the Mavs got out of AAC with a 104-99 victory. But they know they’ll have to play better defense than they did against the Heat.
“We’ve got no problem scoring the ball,” Brunson said. “We just got to be better on defense. It’s something we take a lot of pride in.”