Dec 21, 2010, 2:17 AM EST
The first time the Miami played Dallas back in November, the Heat players were still figuring it out. They seemed to be taking turns on offense more than working off each other, they were playing slow, it wasn’t outright confusion but they looked uncomfortable.
But after winning a dozen in a row they were past that, right? RIGHT?
Maybe not completely. On some key possessions late in the Monday night rematch with the Mavs LeBron James passed the ball to Dwyane Wade, ran through to the corner and stood there. The pace was slow. It all seemed a little too familiar. The Heat may be better but they still got sucked into a lot of bad habits when faced with the Mavericks defense, and the result was a 98-96 Dallas win in Miami. Miami’s 12-game win streak is snapped.
That’s not to say this game wasn’t fun to watch — 23 points in the last 90 seconds. A game of runs where the Mavs start out up 23-10 then pretty soon are giving up a 17-0 run. A lot of times in the final 6 minutes the Heat got within one, but could never get over the hump.
Miami had chances late — LeBron had the three-point play and Chris Bosh missed three could have tied it (at that point it was all over but the free throws). It didn’t work out.
Besides, that’s not where the Heat lost this one.
In a brilliant breakdown at ESPN, Tom Haberstroh noted that the way to beat Miami is to get them to take the long two. It’s a risk because LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Mike Miller — who was back but was 0-4 in limited minutes — James Jones and others can bury the shot. But if you can entice them into taking it and contest you can slow their offense.
That’s what Dallas did very well. They trapped and protected the paint and gave the Heat the least efficient shot in basketball. Miami — Wade and LeBron in particular — need to attack and not settle for that shot. But settle they did Monday.
Meanwhile the Mavericks kept doing what they do. Jason Terry was scoreless for three quarters then put up 19 in the final frame. Dirk Nowtizki had 26.
This is not a bad loss for the Heat — Dallas is proving to be an elite team in this regular season — but it is a reminder they can still be suckered into bad habits. A healthy Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem might help with a few things, but there are places to attack.
Meanwhile Dallas is attacking everyone. They are trapping. They are entertaining. And people are starting to believe that this year is different than other years, that there will not be a wall they can’t climb after the first round of the playoffs. That’s a long way off, but they looked good again vs. the Heat.
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