I hope everyone's enjoyed the last 25 games, because things are about to get bumpy! Tonight, our Mavs (12-13) play host to the defending Champions, Miami Heat (16-6). Does Dallas have a chance? Of course! Things just have to go right in a number of areas.
After last season's championship, the Heat decided to improve around the edges. They signed future Hall of Famer Ray Allen to shoot the wide open corner threes that their offense produces through penetration. Former Sonic/Magic/Hornet/Wizards forward Rashard Lewis was also signed to offer a similar skill set. As with any champion, the real rest is staying focused during the season. At times, the Heat have looked woefully disinterested in the regular season, losing to the lowly Wizards and getting caught off guard against the Grizzlies and Clippers. The best chance for Dallas lies in catching Miami looking beyond the Mavericks to their Christmas day match up with the Thunder. Also, this will only be the second road game for the Heat in the past 33 days. But there is a reason Miami is referred to as the #FlyingDeathMachine on twitter; once they get going, it becomes a slaughter in a hurry.
The Mavericks aren't just worried about Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, we also have a series of internal issues to work out. Derek Fisher is out tonight, having strained his knee during the win over the 76ers. Brandan Wright also sprained his ankle mid game, though was able to finish out the contest. Elton Brand is also dealing with a groin strain. Both Brand and Wright are considered game time decisions. The best post defender and our best chance of pace big man might not be available.
Assuming those two aren't able to play, how will the match ups look tonight? Collison will get the start at point guard and will cover and be covered by Mario Chalmers. Chalmers is a fierce defender who also plays with the confidence of a much more talented guard. He's capable of hitting bit shots so Collison will have quite the challenge. O.J. Mayo will have to stick with Wade, which should be a great test to see how far Mayo has come defensively during his time in Dallas. I expect the Heat to throw a variety of defenders at Mayo, including James.
In order to cope with the speed of Miami, I expect Jae Crowder to start and be asked to start on Udonis Haslem, but help everywhere on the floor. Chris Kaman on Bosh has the possibility of getting ugly for Kaman, but if he attacks like a whirling dervish again he could give Miami fits. That leaves Shawn Marion on Lebron James. Stopping James isn't an option. Yesterday on Twitter Adam Reisenger pointed out that the complete list of players to average 25 ppg while shooting 42% from deep is a short one: Lebron James. But Dallas can try to contain him and hope that he doesn't seem interested in playing tonight.
I know if been really negative lately, but this is one game I don't expect to win. I hope the Mavs come out swinging and I bet Dallas makes it interesting. But with these Mavericks you never know. So my advice is pretty simple: come for the best and expect the worst.