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.


  • 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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