It took a couple quarters until the Heat really pulled away, but their 110-95 victory over the Mavericks was never really in doubt. LeBron James was the spark, as he so often is, draining early jumpers and facilitating and attacking when he needed to. He's the face of the NBA for good reason...nobody can deny that he's the best basketball player on the planet anymore. 24 points in 31 minutes on 13 shots, and it barely looked like he was even trying.
While it's unlikely the outcome would be any different, the Mavericks certainly could have put up a better fight, especially in the first half. Over the past games, the player who has been giving the Mavericks an early spark has been Chris Kaman (8 points, 4-10 shooting, two rebounds), but he was not very assertive against a stifling Heat defense and failed to ever get on track. O.J. Mayo (8 points, 3-14 shooting) had similar troubles as Miami's defense constantly pressured and trapped him up top. Though he played smart at first, the Miami defense frustrated him more and more as the game progressed, goading him into forced shots in an effort to get on track.
Despite those two, the Mavericks were able to scrap around enough to find good looks around the basket, but couldn't take advantage more often than not. Shawn Marion (10 points, 5-14 shooting, nine rebounds) in particular really struggled to find touch around the basket, even though his shot selection was about the same as it ever is.
The only lineup that ever had success was the Mavericks' second team, playing against the Miami counterparts. A lineup of Do. Jones/Beaubois/Carter/Crowder/Sarge went on a bit of a run in the second quarter by sprinting up and down the court and showing pedal to the floor effort. They were so effective that Carlisle didn't bring his starters back in until four minutes left in the quarter.
After halftime, though, the Mavericks were done. They were outscored 33-19 and were overwhelmed on both sides of the ball. Just like the world ending tomorrow, it was inevitable that the Heat were going to pull away. The AAC emptied out pretty quick, and even though the Maverick reserves were able to score enough to make the final score respectable, there was never any doubt.
-Bernard James (12 points, 6-10 shooting, nine rebounds, three blocks) was the lone highlight for Dallas. You'd think he be overmatched playing against the defending NBA champions, but he held his own and looked like a veteran big man the way he played. In fact, the only instance of his "rookieness" showing was when he bit on a couple Chris Bosh pump fakes. Other than that, he seems in total control from the center spot for the Mavericks.
-Dominique Jones (26 minutes, seven points, 2-9 shooting, seven assists, two turnovers) played a big role tonight, but once again proved that he is who he is. He plays a very intelligent game, passing the ball where it needs to be without being flashy or fancy and attacking when the defenses give him a crease. Unfortunately, he simply doesn't finish at the rim anywhere near where an NBA guard needs to, and it always comes back to bite him. If Dojo was even an average finisher, he shoots 4-9 from the field and we're talking about whether he could actually be the backup point guard on this team. As it is, though, it's hard to see much past the 22% shooting that has become normal for him and his game.
-O.J. Mayo, as discussed above, really struggled against the stifling Miami defense. We've seen how talented he is this year, but now we're seeing where his weak basketball IQ really hurts him. Watching him try to deal with the Miami trap was just painful. I think Dirk's return will help him out tremendously.
-If you missed it, Dirk was interviewed and said he would like to return a week from tomorrow if the knee doesn't provide any more setbacks. Please, please please please please please please please come back.
-Dahntay Jones (12 points, 3-6 shooting, 1-2 three) did alright in the starting lineup today and I wouldn't be surprised to see him keep that role at least for tomorrow's game. Note that at least seven of those points were in the last few minutes of the game -- in other words, complete garbage time.
-See you guys tomorrow night in Memphis.