The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Heat

Final: Heat 95, Mavs 88

Box Score | Highlights

Behind the Box Score

In a low-possession game, turnovers hurt even more. Both of these teams play at a pretty slow pace, which limits the number of times you control the ball. And when possessions come at a premium like that, turnovers are very painful. At one point midway through the second quarter, the Mavs trailed 35-32. At that time, they’d committed seven turnovers to the Heat’s four. Obviously that’s early in the game and likely didn’t play a concrete role in the final score, especially given Miami opened it up a bit in the third and fourth for several other reasons (before another furious comeback). But losing three more possessions than Miami did — especially when a couple of those miscues resulted in easy Heat points the other way — put Dallas in a difficult position in the early goings. The Mavs have consistently under Rick Carlisle been one of the league’s best teams at avoiding turnovers. To be fair, through the next 24 minutes they only turned it over four more times. But in those first 18 minutes, those giveaways were costly.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Mavs went on that comeback by forcing a lot of turnovers. At one point in the fourth, down 17 points, Dallas had equaled Miami in giveaways at 11 apiece. But the comeback, which brought the deficit to within three points, was sparked in large part by Dallas forcing turnovers: six of them in six minutes, in fact. Possession is unbelievably important. This game showed why.

Notebook

  • Rookies aren’t going to have “it” every night. Tonight, Dennis Smith Jr. struggled from the field, along with a couple other Mavericks of course, but the focus is on Smith once again in this space. He was one of few Mavs able to consistently get to the rim against a stingy Heat defense, but he just couldn’t convert against the imposing Hassan Whiteside and other Heat help defenders once he got there. Smith has gotten better at finishing within the restricted area each month — he’d been connecting on 55.8 percent of his attempts there in the month of January before tonight — which shows promise. But tonight was one of those nights. While he had a tough time against the impossibly long Whiteside, Smith showed off a nice finish against the similarly sized Tyler Johnson in a one-on-one situation at one point.

    There aren’t many guards who can jump with him, so if the Mavericks can space the floor and find ways to pull defenders further from the rim, it could lead to more success for Smith. Another solution is for Smith to find ways to involve his rolling big men, as he did here with Maxi Kleber.

    When a teammate follows Smith to the rim, it puts the big man defender in a difficult position because he’s got to check two guys at the same time. Of course, Smith spends a lot of his time playing with Dirk Nowitzki at center, and he’d much rather pop to the 3-point line than roll to the rim, and rightly so. That means oftentimes Smith will be on his own when attacking the lane, so he and the Mavs must find ways to create favorable situations for him. Still, that was a nice play to Kleber and gives more reason to believe he’ll continue to thrive in the pick-and-roll.

  • In the second quarter, Wesley Matthews took a nasty tumble into the scorer’s table going for a loose ball. It didn’t look like it felt too good. But, sure as the sun will almost certainly rise in the morning (even though it’s supposed to be cold, this is Texas we’re talking about), Matthews sprang right back up after a quick breather on the floor, dusted himself off, and got back to work.

    Somewhere out there is a highlight reel of all the times he’s sacrificed his body to make a play to help his team. He’s selfless almost to the point that you wonder if he’s a little crazy, but in a good way of course. Matthews dives on the floor and takes more falls than just about anyone else in the league and it’s always for a purpose. And he never misses a game. That guy is toughness personified.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (16-35) will play the Phoenix Suns (17-33) on Wednesday at Talking Stick Resort Arena at 9:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs at Heat

    Final: Heat 113, Mavs 101

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    With his first made 3-pointer, Dirk Nowitzki passed Chauncey Billups (1,830) to move into 12th place on the all-time made 3s list. By the end of the game he actually passed J.R. Smith for 11th place, too, but Smith is still active so those guys have gone back and forth for most of the season. Billups has retired, of course, so Dirk’s spot is safe in that regard.

    Dennis Smith Jr. handed out seven assists, his highest mark in a game since Nov. 11.

    Yogi Ferrell finished with a season-high 23 points. He bested that mark once last season — the nine-3 game in Portland at the height of Yogimania. He’s now scored in double-figures seven straight games.

    Notebook

  • Perhaps inspired by his recent rise up the all-time made 3s list, Nowitzki was letting them fly tonight like we haven’t seen in more than a decade. He took 15 3s in this one, tying for the highest mark in a single game in his career. The other instance came on Jan. 15, 2002. He played 48 minutes that night. That wasn’t the case in this game, obviously, because he’s 39 years old and the general thought of anyone playing 48 minutes in this era is absurd. But that shows you how long Dirk has been doing his thing, and we’re all better off for being able to watch it.

    Maybe you weren’t around to watch him go bombs away 15 years ago, but at least you were tonight. Nowitzki finished with a season-high 20 points.

  • There was some incredible shot-making in this game by both teams. It wasn’t one of those nights when no one could get hot. Quite the opposite, in fact. Dallas was playing some brilliant basketball for most of this game but the Heat simply couldn’t miss from anywhere. Every time the Mavs put a run together, the Heat answered. Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, and Josh Richardson in particular were magnificent, knocking down all the shots you actually want your opponent to take: off-the-dribble 3s, pull-up mid-range jumpers, and so on. Dallas effectively built a shell around the paint but Miami was able to shoot right through it, which is tough to overcome.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (9-24) will play the Atlanta Hawks (7-24) on Saturday at Philips Arena at 6:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Heat

    Final: Mavs 96, Heat 89

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Dirk Nowitzki had his fifth double-digit rebounding game since Jan. 17 and tonight grabbed a season-high 12. He’s really been working hard on the defensive glass since moving to center full-time, and it’s reflected in his stat lines. The trade for Nerlens Noel should help Nowitzki conserve some energy on the boards, giving the Mavs another big body to grab them. But in the meantime, he’s done his part.

    Nowitzki scored eight points tonight and is now just 59 points away from 30,000 for his career. He’ll become just the sixth player in NBA history to achieve that feat.

    Notebook

  • What a win for the Mavericks. The Heat came into tonight’s game winners of 16 of their last 18 games, by far the hottest team in all of basketball, including wins against the Rockets, Warriors, and these same Mavs during that time. Both teams trailed by double-digits at various points throughout the game, yet at the end of it all, as has been the case so many times between these two clubs over the years, it came down to the closing moments, and this time Seth Curry and Harrison Barnes were able to close it out for Dallas, who improves to 2-0 in the Nerlens Noel era. (The 22-year-old was impressive again tonight.) The Mavs launched a 12-0 run in the final minutes, using gritty defense and some shot-making to turn a five-point deficit into a seven-point advantage. The young Mavs are growing more comfortable in moments like these, which is why so many of those close losses earlier in the year are slowly turning into wins.

  • Seth Curry is really good.

    After turning in a career-best 31-point performance last week against Minnesota, Curry scored 29 more tonight. He has stayed red-hot for more than two months now, and he keeps showing new things: hesitations, deep range, off-the-dribble shooting, driving, passing, and more. He’s been better than probably even the Mavericks expected him to be, after bouncing around the league for the last few seasons. There’s no doubt he belongs, though. What’s most shocking about the way Curry’s played is he hasn’t hit any type of wall this season. He had just 48 games of NBA experience under his belt before signing with Dallas, and he’s already more than doubled that total in 2016-17. Typically there’s some drop-off around this time of year from guys who don’t have at least a season’s worth of experience, but it hasn’t come with Curry. In fact, he’s arguably maintained his upward curve and been even better lately than he was a month ago, which is kind of hard to believe.

  • Quinn Cook made his NBA debut tonight and, despite not knowing much of the playbook and having only one shootaround’s worth of practicing with his teammates, he seemed to be comfortable in the offense. He shot just 1 of 5 from the field, but he didn’t force anything and played within the system, and honestly that’s what matters more than the results in a player’s first game in the league. He finished with two points and two assists in 17 minutes.

  • When Dirk Nowitzki was at center — and even when he played power forward next to Dwight Powell — the Mavs played some zone defense. Per Mavs analytics, they ran zone on five possessions and gave up just three points, which is a very good rate, though obviously on a small sample size. I wonder if Dallas will continue to with the 2-3 zone, which they’ve used to great effect for years. It’s harder to run that defense now, though, because so many teams want to shoot a ton of 3s and that’s kind of the Achilles heel of even the best zones, especially when coupled with really sharp ball movement. Still, it’s a nice option to turn to in the right matchup, so keep an eye on that moving forward this season.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (24-35) will play the Atlanta Hawks (33-26) on Wednesday at Philips Arena at 6:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Heat

    Final: Heat 93, Mavs 90

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Despite shooting only 37.5 percent in the second quarter, Dallas still scored 1.087 points per possession. To put that into context, the league average for PPP hovers around 1.02, meaning the Mavs actually had an above-average showing despite shooting a low clip. Dallas did so by shooting seven free throws, grabbing five offensive rebounds, and turning it over just twice in the frame. It’s proof that even if the shots aren’t falling, an offense can still generate points efficiently by doing everything else right — creating extra chances, getting to the line, and taking care of the ball. Making shots is obviously pretty important, but there’s a lot more to basketball than just that.

    Dirk Nowitzki reached the 25-point plateau for the seventh time this season. Dallas is now 6-1 in those games.

    Notebook

  • Something happened at halftime. After a 2-of-7 start from the field in the first half for Nowitzki, he hit five of his seven attempts in the third quarter alone. We’ve seen it about a million times by now, but there’s still something pretty incredible about watching Nowitzki ignite, especially following a stretch of cold shooting. It’s almost like at halftime he changed the difficulty setting back to Rookie mode, where it seems like he’s stayed his entire career. When his jumper is falling, he still makes the game look so easy, and that was the case in the third quarter. He ended up with 28 points to lead the team. The Mavs rode their pony hard tonight and, as always, he didn’t let them down.

  • With both Deron Williams and Devin Harris out due to injury, some serious playing time was available, and Justin Anderson was on the receiving end. The rookie intercepted a pass in the second quarter and took it the length of the floor for a dunk. During one sequence in the fourth quarter, he chased down Justise Winslow in the halfcourt and blocked his shot at the rim, and on the other end he nailed a corner three-pointer to bring the Mavs to within one point. He finished with five points, seven rebounds and two vicious block in 22 minutes, the second-most of his career. Rick Carlisle suggested Harris could miss more games following this one, meaning those same minutes could again be available to Anderson moving forward. The rookie certainly helped his own case tonight, making a few hustle plays and appearing comfortable on both ends of the floor.

  • Chandler Parsons was electric in the first half, scoring 12 points, grabbing six boards, and dishing out three assists. He scored nine of Dallas’ first 11 points of the game all in the first four minutes, attacking the basket in the halfcourt and pulling up for a three-pointer in transition.

  • Raymond Felton was instrumental in getting the Mavericks back into the game after trailing at one point in the fourth quarter 82-75. Felton scored eight of his nine points in the final frame, mostly coming off rim attacks. He’s been big late in games for the Mavericks for most of this season, and he continued it in this one.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (28-24) play the San Antonio Spurs (40-8) Friday at American Airlines Center. Tip-off is at 8:30 p.m. Central.

  • The Fast Break: Mavs at Heat

    Final: Heat 106, Mavs 82

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    After scoring just 0.455 points per possession in the first quarter en route to 10 points, the Mavericks responded with one of their most efficient offensive quarters of the season. Dallas scored 1.458 PPP in the second quarter, which ranks among their very best clips of the entire campaign. The only problem is Miami was equally sizzling, scoring 36 points in the frame to end the half with 58 points and a 13-point lead. Still, it was good to see the Mavericks bounce back so well from a sluggish shooting start.

    All things considered, the Mavericks did a very good job of hanging on to the ball in this game. The Mavs turned it over only 8 times in this game, continuing the team’s trend of playing offense under control. Sometimes the shots simply just aren’t falling, and that was the case for most of this game. But it’s a positive sign that, even though things didn’t come easily for Dallas tonight, the club was still able to generate good looks and not give Miami a bunch of easy chances going the other way. The Mavericks didn’t make mistakes playing out of wild desperation. They still stayed within the flow of the offense. That’s how you get back into games, too.

    Notebook

  • Deron Williams played his first game since suffering a hamstring strain against Toronto on Dec. 22. But given the tear J.J. Barea has been on recently, Williams was a reserve, backing up the Puerto Rican. He scored a bucket on his first attempt, a little fadeaway jumper from 15 feet. Dallas also ran a nifty play to get him a wide-open corner 3, one I can’t remember seeing before this season. It’s good to see Williams back in the swing of things. Barea has been fantastic for the last several games, but you can never have enough guard depth in this league, and we all know what Williams is capable of when he’s healthy and in a groove.

  • JaVale McGee always shows flashes of what he could become as he gets more acclimated with the team and system. In one second-quarter stretch, McGee threw down an alley-oop dunk, then at the other end he blocked Chris Bosh at the rim, then at the other end he leaped for another lob and drew a foul doing so. He’d later convert another alley-oop in the same quarter. He’s obviously a tremendous athlete, and it’d paid dividends on both ends for the Mavs.

  • The Mavs have a game tomorrow night against New Orleans. It’s always important to play with energy on the second night of a back-to-back, no matter how tough it might be to summon. However, the good news is the only Maverick to play more than 30 minutes against Miami was Wesley Matthews, so the roster should be fresh, relatively speaking, when the Pelicans come to town. It will be a game the Mavericks will certainly be looking to win, in hopes of extending the club’s winning streak within the friendly confines of American Airlines Center.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (19-14) play the New Orleans Pelicans (10-22) Saturday at American Airlines Center. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. Central.

  • What To Watch For: Mavs vs. Heat

    Shootaround: JJ Barea

    Mavs G JJ Barea talks about what Dirk means to this franchise, looks ahead to Sunday's matchup against the Heat and more.

    It’s a 2011 Finals rematch tonight, only with a ton of new faces involved.

    Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea will face the Heat for the first time with the Mavs since Dallas won the title four seasons ago. Meanwhile, Miami is off to a solid start in Year One without LeBron James. The 4-2 Heat look sharp on offense and stout enough defensively to make some noise in the Eastern Conference. The season is still young, and some of the faces might have changed, but anytime Dwyane Wade’s crew rolls through the American Airlines Center, it’s bound to be a wild game with a raucous crowd and a lot of emotion. Wade and Dirk Nowitzki are both sure-fire Hall of Famers, and Bosh is certainly making his case as well. It’s a treat to watch these guys duke it out yet again after all these years.

    OFFENSE
    Mavs Offense Heat Defense
    Points/100 poss. 113.1 (1) 103.5 (T-19)
    eFG% 53.7 (3) 51.2 (20)
    TOV% 11.5 (2) 16.9 (11)
    Off/Def Reb% 24.6 (18) 74.8 (11)
    FT/FGA .217 (28) .367 (27)

    Dirk Nowitzki is on a tear, and that shouldn’t really surprise anyone. The Big German is 34 points away from passing Hakeem Olajuwon for ninth place on the all-time scoring list, which can be done in one big night by his standards. After pouring in 27 points on 18 shots against the Jazz, Dirk has to be feeling good about himself. There’s not a go-to defensive power forward on the Heat’s roster who, by himself, has the wherewithal to shut Nowitzki down — Miami will likely rotate Shawne Williams, Udonis Haslem, Josh McRoberts, and perhaps Bosh on him throughout the game. Nowitzki probably won’t pass The Dream tonight, but it isn’t out of the question.

    Miami’s big addition in free agency, Luol Deng, is still a very good perimeter defender. He’ll be the one faced up against Chandler Parsons, and when Deng is on, his opponents have a tough night. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra might even sic Deng on Nowtizki for stretches of the game, although I think his defense is better suited elsewhere. If Deng can limit Parsons’s abilities to get inside the lane and finish himself or create for others, the onus will be on Monta Ellis and the other guards to get the job done for him. As I’ve said before, that’s one of the luxuries of having such a deep roster. Opponents can take away one of the Mavs’ options and Dallas will still have two or three other ways to win the game.

    Dallas as a whole bounced back well after a loss in Portland on Thursday. The Mavs shot just 36.7 percent in the defeat, but then rebounded up to 47.7 percent the next night against a tough Jazz squad. The Mavs have now won both games following a loss this season, which is what you hope to see from top-half playoff teams. Dallas put up a 120.6 offensive rating in that win against Utah, the team’s second-best performance of the season. If that momentum carries over into tonight’s contest, the Mavs should be in a good position to win the game.

    DEFENSE
    Mavs Defense Heat Offense
    Points/100 poss. 107.6 (25) 107.7 (5)
    eFG% 52.9 (26) 52.4 (6)
    TOV% 19.0 (6) 15.5 (17)
    Off/Def Reb% 68.0 (30) 24.3 (19)
    FT/FGA .237 (2) .356 (5)

    The Heat get to the free throw line seemingly at will. Wade & Co. will probably be looking to put Tyson Chandler in foul trouble, as he gives the Mavs a tremendous size advantage, so he must do his best to avoid bailing Miami out with cheap fouls at the rim. I’m sure this game will carry a little extra weight for Chandler, as well, as it’s his first game against Miami as a member of the Mavericks since Game 6 of the 2011 Finals.

    Either Chandler or Nowitzki is going to have to guard Chris Bosh, who’s off to a terrific start this season, scoring 24.2 points and adding 10.3 boards per game. He’s doing it efficiently, too — his 59.4 true shooting percentage is the second-highest of his career. Bosh will be another free throw-shooting culprit tonight, as he averages 8.0 attempts from the charity stripe, his most since the 2009-10 season. You might have forgotten how productive Bosh was before leaving Toronto for Miami in 2010, but he’s still the type of player who can win a game by himself if he gets it going. Fortunately, the Mavericks can throw all sorts of different looks at him because they match up so well with Miami. Chandler, Nowitzki, Parsons, Al-Farouq Aminu, and even Brandan Wright will probably rotate on the Miami big man tonight, and Dallas could always resort to the 2-3 zone in an effort to keep Bosh and Wade out of the paint.

    Wade has also started the season with a vengeance, scoring 19.7 points per game on 51.1 percent shooting. His 24.8 PER is his highest since the 2011-12 season. Without LeBron, Miami’s offense is much more reliant on Wade, and he’s been up to the challenge thus far. Monta Ellis will have to do his best on the crafty shooting guard, and I expect Devin Harris will also face him for stretches during the game. Ellis got into foul trouble against Portland, which threw the Mavs’ offense off in the third quarter and ultimately played a part in the defeat. We all know Wade looks to get to the free throw line as much as possible, so Ellis must be careful when swiping for the ball. His presence alone on the offensive end will make Wade work a heck of a lot more than he wants to, and that could wear the Heat 2-guard out and perhaps even affect his offensive performance.

    It’s safe to say the Mavs don’t like the Heat holdovers from the 2011 roster, and I bet you the Heat players harbor the same feelings. Anytime these two teams square off, especially now that Chandler and Barea are back, there are always plenty of flashbacks to that glorious series a few springs ago. Dallas has eyes on getting back to the Finals this season, however, and this would be a good win on the way to getting there. With Sacramento coming into town on Tuesday, the Mavs’ next two games are against teams with a combined 9-3 record. These aren’t going to be easy contests, but they’re ones Dallas must find a way to win.