Mavs-Heat Preview: Streaks, Numbers & Pain

"I think about it every day,'' Jason Terry told me in regard to Dallas' 2006 NBA Finals loss to the Heat. "I think about payback for Miami. Every day.'' Now, it would be normal if Jet uttered those vengeful words this weekend in anticipation of tonight's Mavs-at-Heat headliner. But no. This was in September.

Mavs (21-5) at Heat (21-8) , American Airlines Arena, coverage begins 6 p.m. on FS Southwest

The Scene-Setter

Infamously, the Mavs lost a two-and-seven/eighths-game lead in 2006 in the NBA Finals. Much has changed since then – the Dallas roster is almost completely overturned, with Terry and Dirk Nowitzki the lone holdovers, and Dwyane Wade has some fresh mates, too, from LeBron James to Erick Dampier, who in 2006 was a Maverick – but Dallas remembers.

It is no coincidence that since that Finals flop, the Mavs have played Miami nine times, and including a 106-95 drubbing at the AAC on Nov. 27, the Mavs are 9-0 in those games.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban is in charge of the hype machine here, opening the NBA season by characterizing "Miami Thrice'' by saying, "That is a team only the locals can love.''

Dallas did its part in the earlier meeting, though one of the ramifications was certainly unintentional: Since that loss, which dropped the Heat to 9-8, Miami has won 12 straight.

And now each streaking team (Dallas with 14 wins in 15 starts) will try to do it again. Coverage starts at 6 p.m. on FS Southwest (I'll join Ro Blackman on the "Mavs Live'' pre- and postgame shows, with Mark Followill and Bob Ortegel with the play-by-play).

The Numbers

Dallas

Miami

Overall

21-5

Overall

21-8

Road

8-1

Home

12-3

vs. +0.500

11-3

vs. +0.500

6-6

Last 10

9-1

Last 10

10-0

Road PtDiff

+7.4

Home PtDiff

+11.0

Road FG%

0.495

Home FG%

0.472

Road Opp FG%

0.448

Home Opp FG%

0.425

Road Rbds

41.2

Home Rbds

42.7

Road Opp Rbds

38.6

Home Opp Rbds

39.7

As you can see by the numbers, both teams have extremely strong statistical foundations … having great records over the last 10, having great records on the road and at home, having a great point differential, outshooting their opponents by about 5 percent, and outrebounding their opponents by about three. The only big difference comes with Dallas being 11-3 against +0.500 teams while Miami is only 6-6 versus +0.500 teams.

Is Miami's mediocre performance against the cream-of-the-crop indicative of an inability to play with the big boys or is it simply an outflow of their early season chemistry issues?

The Heat Locker Room

Interestingly, while Jason Terry takes a payback approach to his meetings with Miami, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle thinks the Heat wishes to return the favor.

"It's gonna be a very challenging game for us," Carlisle said. "I'm sure they'll be thinking about revenge (from this year's earlier meeting) and all that stuff."

More likely, the Heat will continue to concern itself with two issues:

One, the integration of LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh into an offensive system that takes advantage of their talents – all of which have historically been on display when each opposed the Mavs in different uniforms. Over the years, Dallas has handled Wade's Heat and Bosh's Raptors and held its own against LeBron's Cavs. But each of those players averages over 20 points per game in their careers against Dallas.

Two, the controlling of Dirk Nowitzki, the MVP candidate who is 37 points shy of passing Larry Bird for 25th on the NBA's career scoring list. The UberMan has averaged 26.4 points in his last 13 games against the Heat and 26.6 in his last 11 games in Miami. With the Mavericks playing at Miami on Monday and at Orlando on Tuesday, we may be within less than two days from seeing Dirk take over Bird's perch.

But pointing out those specifics isn't to say that Miami coach Erik Spoelstra is unaware of the 13-game Dallas-vs.-Heat winning streak.

"I'm not sure, really, why it's this way now," Spoelstra said. "We've had some competitive games, we just haven't been able to close them out, for whatever reason. … We match up fine with them, but it hasn't been the case enough in the result column."

The Mavs Locker Room:

This weekend, Terry reiterated the Mavs' passion as it relates to Miami. Team-wide, nothing especially personal; when the Dallas team plane landed in South Florida on Sunday, Mavs players J.J. Barea and Caron Butler (both of whom have area ties) tweeted their excitement on the arrival.

Said Butler: "Just touched ground in Miami weather is lovely!''

Said JJB: "Bienvenido a Miami!''

But Jet has a different view.
"We're going into their territory,'' the standout sixth man said to the media back in Dallas. "You know what it means to us. It's always going to be there. It doesn't matter who's in those uniforms. That game is personal."
Terry and the Mavs have reason to think they were better than those Heat teams; in addition to the nine straight since after the Finals, Dallas has beaten Miami in 13 straight regular-season outings. And in those Finals? As if you need reminding … Wade managed to set a modern record for Whistles Benefited By late in Game 3, with the Mavs up 2-0 and the city of Dallas starting its parade-planning.

Miami never lost again. The Heat won the series 4-2. Darrell Armstrong, a player on that team and an assistant coach now, admits that there "might be a block'' psychologically that shadows the Mavs ever since.

Terry, though, doesn't believe his memories are detrimental. They are fuel.
"The only thing you've got to look at are them ballboys when they're in the locker room,'' he said, "and they got them flashy rings on, and you know they're yours. That's it. And that's all I look at."

The Lineups

Miami Heat Dallas Mavericks
Mario Chalmers Jason Kidd
Dwyane Wade DeShawn Stevenson
LeBron James Caron Butler
Chris Bosh Dirk Nowitzki
Zydrunas Ilgauskas Tyson Chandler

The Conclusion

While this is a "lose-able'' game for the Mavs – Dallas can do so and still be 21-6 one-third of the way into the season with a split against powerful Miami – a win for either club could be huge. A positive result for Miami, and the Heat are launched further into their double-digit win-streak. A positive result for Dallas and it gives the Mavs a huge momentum-grabbing road win against an elite team.

That won't erase the pain of 2006. But it will enhance the pleasure of 2010.

Mike Fisher joins Ro Blackman on the pre- and postgame shows tonight at 6 on FS Southwest ... Follow The Fish and the Mavs at twitter.com/fishsports


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