Heat vs. Mavericks Preview: Can Miami Remain Dominant on the Road?

Action Network NBA betting analyst Roberto Arguello breaks down Tuesday's game between the Heat and Mavericks and shares his best bet in this heavyweight matchup.

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Heat vs. Mavericks Odds

Heat Odds -1.5
Mavericks Odds +1.5
Over/Under 213.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Miami Heat take on the Mavericks on Tuesday night in Dallas as each squad looks to stay among the top teams in their respective conferences.

The Heat have started out 5-1, with their only loss coming in overtime when Kyle Lowry was out against the Pacers. Miami played its most recent game without Bam Adebayo on the second leg of a back-to-back on Saturday night, but despite being three-point underdogs against the Grizzlies, the Heat dominated from the jump in a 129-103 win.

Jason Kidd’s Mavericks are 4-2 after beating the Kings 105-99 on Sunday afternoon, but only one of their four wins has come against a team with a winning record so far (the 5-3 Raptors).

The Heat have been a popular pick in the top three among various power rankings, but they opened as short underdogs against the Mavs on Tuesday before the line moved to make the Heat 1.5-point road favorites.

Is this an early season misprice, or should we back Luka Doncic and the Mavs at home? Let’s break it down.

Defense is the Catalyst for the Miami Heat

The key to a win Tuesday for the Heat is tied to how well they can stifle Doncic with their dominant defense and have an efficient shooting night from beyond the arc.

The Heat are 5-1 because of their stingy defense that leads the league in Defensive Rating at 95.8 (excluding garbage time, per Cleaning The Glass). This has helped the Heat lead the league in both Spread Differential (+13.8) and Point Differential (+16.3).

Bam Adebayo, who is the anchor of that defense, is questionable to play with a knee injury while Max Strus (knee) is out for a couple weeks.

The additions of Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker have been huge for the Heat as they complement reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week Jimmy Butler and Adebayo incredibly well.

Lowry’s on-ball presence allows Butler to play to his strengths as an off-ball defender lurking in the passing lanes. Lowry’s court vision has been valuable in transition as he pushes the pace so that Adebayo and Butler (who aren’t efficient from beyond the arc) can utilize their athleticism to get easy buckets closer to the rim without a set defense.

Lowry’s addition gives the Heat a legitimate point-of-attack defender, which the Heat have sorely lacked over the past few seasons. Tucker is another smart and physical defender who can guard up from his position, and this proved valuable on Saturday when the Heat played without Adebayo — which usually would have meant a loss in seasons past.

Adebayo’s presence will be a big boost for the Heat, but even without him, they will have several defenders whom they can throw at Doncic with confidence like Butler, Lowry, and Tucker.

The Heat have surprisingly been dominant so far this season without even shooting the ball well as they have made just 34.3% of their 3s. Their best shooter, Duncan Robinson, has been uncharacteristically poor from beyond the arc as he has made just 31.4% his attempts this season.

If the Heat can’t corral Doncic, they will need their 3-point shots to fall, especially if Adebayo isn’t around to generate easy buckets at the rim and get his own shot in the midrange.

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks need their offense to get kick-started by a hot night from beyond the arc. Doncic is efficient as a scorer and distributor, but injuries could impact how much of a load he’ll need to carry Tuesday.

Maxi Kleber (back) is out while Kristaps Porzingis is questionable with a back injury that has held him out of the last three games. This leaves the Mavericks with Dwight Powell, Dorian Finney-Smith, Willie Cauley-Stein, Moses Brown, and Boban Marjanovic as frontcourt options.

The Mavericks need to step up their game offensively to have a chance to beat the Heat’s elite defense. After ranking first in Offensive Rating (116.9) two seasons ago, the Mavericks had one of the better offenses again last season as they ranked eighth (116.2) in Offensive Rating. This season, though, they rank surprisingly low in new head coach Jason Kidd’s first season — 27th in Offensive Rating (101.1).

The Mavs rank 25th in the NBA in 3-point percentage (31.6%), which is a big deal for them because they take 43.2% of their attempts from beyond the arc — the third most in the league (excluding garbage time, per Cleaning The Glass).Among the seven Mavs who take at least three 3-point attempts per game, only Maxi Kleber, Jalen Brunson, and Tim Hardaway Jr. have made more than 31% of their 3s (and once again, the Mavs will be without Kleber against the Heat).

Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Head Coach Jason Kidd of the Dallas Mavericks talks to Luka Doncic #77.

Doncic has started off relatively slowly by his standards. He ranks in the 34th percentile among point guards as he is scoring just 101.5 points per 100 shots (Cleaning The Glass), and he has made just 23.8% of his 3s on 7.0 attempts per game.

Kidd’s emphasis on midrange shots seems to be one reason for Doncic’s decline in scoring efficiency. Two seasons ago, Doncic took a combined 71% of his shots either at the rim or beyond the arc. Last season, Doncic took 59% of his shots at the rim or beyond the arc. This season, he is down to 47% on those attempts.

Doncic and Brunson (who was incredibly efficient off the bench last season) both need to be more efficient in the halfcourt to make up for the loss of Kleber, who is an impact player for the Mavs on both ends.

Hardaway will be an X-factor for the Mavs as they will need an efficient night from beyond the arc to keep up with the Heat and open up more spacing for Doncic.

Heat-Mavericks Pick

The Mavs lead the league in Win Differential (the difference between the number of games they have won against the number of games they are expected to have won given their efficiency differential) at 2.1, and I love this spot to capitalize on them over performing in the win column against a Heat team that has been playing the best basketball in the NBA.

The Mavericks, who generate the fewest transition opportunities in the NBA, will have an uphill battle against the Heat in the halfcourt without Kleber, especially if Adebayo plays.

Furthermore, the Mavericks defense will take a bigger step back than the offense with Kleber out. Although the Heat rank 13th in Effective Field Goal Percentage, they rank sixth in Offensive Rating because their stellar Offensive Rebounding Rate (32.0%, per Cleaning The Glass, third-best in the NBA).

The Heat lead the league in overall Rebounding Rate (57.0%), and this will pose a significant problem for a Mavericks team that ranks third-worst in Rebounding Rate (47.4%) and may be without two key bigs.

The Heat are firing on all cylinders, and as a short favorite, I think there’s value on the road after two consecutive days off. I like the Heat on the moneyline with value down to -140, but I wouldn’t mind taking the spread with the Heat at +1 if it is available. I expect the line to continue to move in the Heat’s favor, though, especially if Adebayo plays.

I recommend betting one unit on the Heat if Adebayo is out, but if he plays, I will be betting 1.5 units on Miami. Expect the Mavericks to get exposed in their first game against a legitimate playoff team since they were eviscerated by the Hawks 113-87 in their opener.

Pick: Heat ML -120 (bet to -140)