Preview: Mavs welcome in defending champs to begin tough close to 2012
Earl K. Sneed previews from the Dallas Mavericks' nationally-televised matchup against the Miami Heat on Thursday night, as the short-handed Mavs begin a challenging stretch to end 2012.
Preview: Heat (16-6) at Mavericks (12-13)
Mavs welcome in defending champs to begin tough close to 2012
Welcoming in the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat to the American Airlines Center on Thursday night for a nationally-televised matchup, the Dallas Mavericks will have a prime opportunity to showcase where they stack up against the league’s best. And after ending a three-game losing streak following a winless road trip, the Mavericks (12-13) will try to build off a 107-100 victory at home Tuesday night over the Philadelphia 76ers.
“After that gruesome road trip we were able to bounce back here at home and get a good win,” four-time All-Star Shawn Marion said. “You know, it’s time for us to gain some momentum here and do what we need to do to start moving in the right direction.”
“We got the win, which was much-needed, and now we’re looking forward to our next opponent,” leading scorer O.J. Mayo added.
But if the Mavericks are going to build momentum against the current titleholders then they may have to do so short-handed, with veteran point guard Derek Fisher (right knee) ruled out of Thursday’s matchup while big men Elton Brand (groin) and Brandan Wright (sprained right ankle) are both game-time decisions.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks will have to continue to battle without their full complement of players at least until after the Christmas holiday as they await the return of 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki from arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 19. And even after the 7-footer returned to the practice court Wednesday for the first time since the preseason, the Mavs won’t have No. 41 at their disposal against the loaded Heat team.
“Our play is going to be elevated by virtue of the fact that we have to have an elevated play to win games right now,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said as his banged-up team prepares to welcome in the defending champs. “That was the case [Tuesday night]. I think ultimately we played harder than Philly a little more than they did and I think that’s what got us over the top. But Miami, they’re the world champions. They have great players and they have a tremendous team. And we know our level has got to be very high to beat them.”
Hoping to play at their highest capacity, somehow the Mavs will try to contain three-time MVP LeBron James — the first player to score at least 20 points in his team’s first 22 games since Utah’s Karl Malone in 1989-90 — and the high-octane Heat (16-6) to begin a tough home-road back-to-back that concludes in Memphis on Friday night. And with all six games to conclude 2012 coming against playoff teams from a season ago, the Mavericks know they’ll have to be at their best in order to remain afloat until Nowitzki integrates himself.
“These are all good teams coming up, so nothing’s ever easy,” Carlisle concluded. “Particularly this year, it’s been tough. We’re going to prepare hard and teams have got to deal with us, too.”
Note: The Mavericks will return to action when they play host to the NBA champion Miami Heat on Thursday night. The game will air nationally on TNT at 8:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.