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.

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