Dirk Video Visit: Heat 117, Mavs 106
The Dallas Mavericks entered Tuesday's meeting with the visiting Miami Heat rested and ready following the All-Star Break, during which Dirk Nowitzki played eight minutes in the league's showcase game while the rest of his teammates scattered to assorted beaches.
When they left town, they were in sixth place in the challenging West knowing full-well that to maintain that fine perch, they'd need to step up the defensive work that had them allowing 17 games of opponents shooting 50 percent or better -- the second-poorest number in the NBA.
Unfortunately, their launch into the post-break schedule and into the hopes of being more limiting defensively collided with LeBron James and the Heat, a team that over the course of each quarter shot lights-out.
"He was great,'' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of James, who scored 42 points and sparked the 14-0 Miami run in the fourth that ruined what had been a neck-and-neck race. "He was great in all areas. He is great and we know he is great. ... But, that's him and I thought we played extremely hard and our heart was in the right place all night.''
James' had twice this year plunged his fist into the Mavs' chest and removed that heart; two highest-scoring games this year have victimized Dallas, as he had 39 points in beating the Mavs in November. But he does something akin to this against virtually everybody, so his 16-of-23 shooting (with nine rebounds, five assists and two steals) is no shocker.
Nor, by the way, should Dirk's line be a surprise: Nowitzki scored 22 points, had nine rebounds and offered up seven assists and a steal -- threatening to notch the third triple-double of his illustrious career -- but he faded late and it could be argued passed on opportunities that limited his field-goal-attempt total to 14.
While LeBron was scoring 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the final period alone, Dallas was going almost six minutes without a fourth-quarter field goal.
"We had some opportunities for some shots during critical periods that didn't go down when they were real makeable,'' Carlisle said, "and it just went the wrong way for us."
(See the Mavs-and-Heat Coaches Quoteboard here.
The Mavs are 32-23 and twisted up with Phoenix and Golden State in the standings (Late-night results mean Dallas tumbles from sixth to eighth.) Miami is 38-14 after its ninth win in 11 games and in the East is jousting with the Indiana team just victimized by Dallas before the break.
"I think we're disappointed that we lost, but at the same time, we can keep our heads up and realized we were in it until the end,'' said Marion. "We were down to the last few minutes of the game, and we were right there. It was a game of runs, and they were able to get the last run and get the win. Right now we're going to shake it off by coming in before we go on this next road trip and get ready."
Dirk shares some of the same sentiments in a Video Visit:
As the Mavs move forward, they probably don't need to be overly concerned with Tuesday's temporary lack of Dirk-aid (Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Vince Carter and Marion combined to shoot 13-of-48). No, it'll be back to the defensive drawing board, with a concession that Miami's 57.1-percent shooting in this game is the result of a special talent in LeBron but that all those other 50-percent-shooting opponents are being made to look more special than they are.
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