The Mavericks are headed back to Dallas after back-to-back road games in Portland and Utah and will face the Miami Heat tonight at home. The Heat are 4-2 after a solid win over the Minnesota Timberwolves last night.
What did the Heat do over the summer?
To compensate for their most obvious loss over the summer (and also the retiring Shane Battier), the Heat added several players to their roster this offseason, including rookie Shabazz Napier, who was drafted at LeBron James' urging to shore up the point and who has been playing well as part of a three-guard rotation.
They also brought in small forwards Luol Deng and Danny Granger and, in one of their savvier summer moves, acquired Josh McRoberts, who'll join the team at power forward as Chris Bosh moves back into a more traditional role in the post.
What has Miami done lately?
Most of the preseason buzz for this team centered around whether Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would be able to step up after LeBron's departure, and the duo has responded aggressively. Miami got off to a blazing start, winning three in a row against the Wizards, the Sixers, and the Raptors before dropping the next two to Charlotte and Houston. They picked up their fourth win of the season last night against Minnesota, with both Wade and Bosh contributing more than 20 points.
What is the biggest matchup to watch?
The Heat have been hampered by minor injuries to a number of players over the last few games, and will be playing the second of back-to-back weekend games tonight. Given their schedule (this game is part of the Heat's third back-to-back in just seven games) and the nagging injuries several Heat players have experienced early this season, the Mavs may not be facing Miami at full strength. The match-ups with Dallas will depend on just how available some of these players (including Josh McRoberts, Chris Andersen, and Danny Granger) are, but as Hot Hot Hoops' David Ramil told us in a Q&A coming later today, Luol Deng versus Chandler Parsons could be an interesting battle between two talented wings looking to gel with a new team. Chris Bosh could also prove to be a tough match-up for Tyson Chandler in the post. Bosh has taken on an expanded role this season, in terms of both output and efficiency, with his true shooting percentage and his points per game at all time highs.
What does Dallas need to do to beat the Heat?
Nothing new here: play better defense. If McRoberts and Andersen are both unable to contribute serious minutes helping Bosh defend in the frontcourt, then Dirk and Chandler should be able to dominate the Heat's depleted front court lineup, especially coming off a day's rest and with Carlisle able to limit Dirk's minutes in Friday night's decisive victory over the Jazz. But the Mavericks will still need to get stops at the other end, and even though they showed improvement Friday, there's still cause for concern. They'll have to do better (and avoid those pesky third quarter meltdowns) to beat Miami.