The Dallas Mavericks enter tonight’s game against the Miami Heat in a funk. They have lost six of the last seven games, with their only win being a 98-75 slaughter of the magic-less Wizards. The Mavs seem to be so close to figuring it out, but not all the way there yet. Five of their six loses during this stretch were decided by single digits, including two that came down to one possession. These close games are serving as teaching moments for the whole team and most importantly Dennis Smith Jr., who has is averaging more than 30+ minutes a game during the past few games. DSJ and the Mavs will look to turn all the recent teaching moments in close losses into a winning moment tonight against Miami.
In their last meeting Dallas visited Miami and lost 101-113 behind a career best 28 points from Miami guard Wayne Ellington. Ellington shot 10 for 16 from the field including 8 for 12 from three. He accounted for half of Miami’s made three pointers. Back-up point guard Tyler Johnson started in place of injured Goran Dragic and had 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists while shooting 67% from the field. Forward Josh Richardson also helped Miami with a team-high 24 points and 11 for 14 shooting.
Dennis Smith Jr. and his team (see what I did there?) must start the game better than they did during the first contest. Dallas let Miami take a 0 – 12 lead with eight minutes left to go in the first. Although they would come back and tie the game going into half-time, the Mavs never lead during the game. A start that slow, especially with a healthy Goran Dragic playing, might be too hard to overcome. DSJ and anyone not named Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes, and Yogi Ferrell must also play better than last time. Nowtizki, Barnes, and Ferrell were the only guys who showed up, each having over 20 points. Nobody else had more than 10 points, including a 6 point dud from DSJ. Although he had 7 assists, DSJ finished with a -15 in plus-minus in his 27 minutes.
Two Key Stats
Rebounds: I use this stat more than I should but it is only because the Mavericks are not good at rebounding. Dallas is 27th in the NBA in total rebounds. In the first meeting Dallas lost the rebounding battle 29-38. What makes it worse? The Heat’s leader in rebounds, Hassan Whiteside, didn’t even play. Whiteside is averaging 11.8 rebounds this season and will be playing tonight. Miami only averages 8.4 offensive rebounds a game, compared to the last place Mavericks 7.6. Still, giving up rebounds, especially offensive ones, can really hurt the Mavs who have a razor thin margin of error.
Second Chance Points: What do offensive rebounds create? Second chance point opportunities. Just like rebounding, Miami isn’t that much better in this category than the Mavs either. Miami is 28th in the NBA in second chance points at 10.2, Dallas is last at 9.6. The razor thin difference in second chance points can be the thin margin of error that the Mavs need to win.
JJ Barea and Devin Harris are both listed as out for the Mavericks, opening up minutes for Kyle Collinsworth. The guard is on his second 10-day contract with the Mavs. Over the last four games he is averaging 4 points, 5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1 steal while shooting 70% from the field. He has never missed a three pointer (1 for 1) and he has an average plus-minus of +9. Coach Rick Carlisle mentioned that he was going to get minutes while Harris is out and pointed out his +16 plus-minus during the post game press conference after the Denver game on Saturday.
Fun Fact: Dallas and Miami are in a three-way tie with Brooklyn for second in the NBA with 32 clutch games played. The league leader is New Orleans with 33. A game is counted as “clutch” when it is within five points with five minutes or less left in regulation.
The game tips off at 7:30 pm central time on Fox Sports Southwest.
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