Dallas Mavericks at Miami HEAT Game Preview

Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
by Joe Beguiristain

The Miami HEAT host the Dallas Mavericks Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT fell to the Mavericks 96-89 in their last meeting on Feb. 27. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: What was your main takeaway from the victory in Boston?

Couper Moorhead: Erik Spoelstra used a zone defense. On purpose. I know, it’s hard to believe but trust me, it really happened.

With Miami trailing by 6-12 points for most of the game, Spoelstra went for a change of pace in the third quarter and went to a full 2-3 zone. Now, for context, the HEAT have averaged fewer than two zone possessions a game since Spoelstra became coach and since the start of the 2015-16 season they had used zone on just eight total possessions headed into Boston. So, in that third quarter, the HEAT used zone on 10 separate possessions, allowing eight points. Boston got out of its usual offense as it navigated the change in coverage and Miami made a run that gave them the lasting lead.

Now, that it worked is all that matters, especially since being down on the road with a shorthanded roster is exactly the time to take a risk like this. But it was a risk nevertheless. Boston had four very open three pointers during the zone stretch, and as far as game theory goes it’s interesting to consider how one of those falling might have changed things. If Jaylen Brown hits an open three on Miami’s first zone possession, do they get out of it and does Miami then make the same run? In the end it took two jumpers from a poor shooter in Marcus Smart to bust the zone, but at that point the damage had been done.

Will we see zone again from Miami? History tells us we shouldn’t expect it, but Miami just won a game doing something very unexpected.

Joe Beguiristain: It was one heck of an effort by the HEAT against the best team (record-wise) in the East.

You may have heard by now that Kelly Olynyk went off with a career-high 32 points, including 14 in the fourth, to go along with seven boards and two assists. Boston simply had no answer for the 7-footer, as he caught the defense off balance a few times with shot-fakes on his way to the rim and also knocked down a career-high six 3-pointers. 

Other than Olynyk, Josh Richardson also had a good night. Not only did the 24-year-old come up big in Miami’s 12-2 run in the third quarter that gave the team a lead it would never relinquish, but he also did a good job of guarding multiple players, including Kyrie Irving down the stretch.

While it took everything the HEAT had to come away victorious in a very tough environment with just 10 available players (even a 2-3 zone like Coup mentioned above), the team essentially responded with two simple words: no excuses.

2: How are the Mavericks different this season and how is their season going?

Couper: By and large this is the same Dallas team as last season. The most notable change, of course, is the introduction of No. 9 pick Dennis Smith Jr, as talented a point guard as we’ve seen in recent years. Smith hasn’t shot very well this season going sub-40 percent from the field and 30 percent from deep, but he’s also the type of athlete that can make an immediate impact on a game even when he isn’t getting the ball to drop.

As for the Mavericks overall, they’re 9-23 with the No. 25 offense (102.0) and No. 16 defense (105.5), clearly not where they want to be on either end of the court especially with a veteran roster. And that’s exactly why Dallas is so dangerous. Like Miami in the first half last season, Dallas has plenty of talented veterans and promising young players under the leadership of one of the best coaches in the league. That’s not a combination you underestimate.

Joe: Although the Mavericks are just 9-23 on the year, they’re better than their record indicates. Dallas is a veteran-laden squad with some familiar names, such as Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews and J.J. Barea. That said, rookie Dennis Smith Jr. (whom Coup talked about above) and Harrison Barnes are the future of the team.

In particular, Barnes has been the Mavericks’ most steady presence thus far due to his versatility on the offensive end. From pull-up jumpers and catch-and-shoot opportunities to patient drives to the rim, the 25-year-old keeps the opposition guessing more often than not.

Still, Miami should find some success if it forces Barnes to take tough mid-range jumpers. The former Warrior is shooting just 38.7 percent (53-of-137) from that area this season. With a great defender in Richardson likely getting the assignment of defending Barnes, it should be one fun matchup.

3: Despite their record, what’s one area where Dallas can challenge Miami’s defense?

Couper: Another way in which Dallas is similar to Miami is that they put up a ton of threes, coming in at No. 5 just behind Miami as far as three-point rate (37.8 percent of their total shots). That means there’s a ton of possible variance to Dallas’ offense, and they’re just one hot shooting night away from competing with any team in the league. Miami is one of if not the best team in the league at keeping teams off the three-point line, but Dallas has the shooters to take advantage of even the smallest mistakes. 

Joe: Despite having a below-average offensive rating, Dallas moves the ball pretty well. In fact, the team is ranked in the top half of the league with a 58.0 assist percentage. As such, the Mavericks are one of the best catch-and-shoot teams at 40.5 percent on those looks. Of course, the veterans I mentioned before (Nowitzki, Matthews and Barea) have a lot to do with that thanks to their ability to stretch the floor and knock down outside shots.

With a dynamic offensive player in Barnes, a young stud in Smith Jr. and a bevy of three-point shooters, Dallas should not be taken lightly by any means.



Feb. 27 – HEAT at Mavericks

Jan. 19 – Mavericks at HEAT

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT have won five of seven and are 16-15 on the year.
  • The Mavericks have dropped six of eight and enter the contest at 9-23.
  • Miami has given up just 98.6 points per 100 possessions over its last seven.
  • Harrison Barnes leads Dallas in points (18.5) and rebounds (7.1) per game.


Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 102.0 (T-25)
  • HEAT Defense: 103.9 (11)
  • Mavericks Offense: 102.0 (T-25)
  • Mavericks Defense: 105.5 (16)

Related Content