Miami connected early and often from deep in the first quarter and jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead. Luka Doncic sprained his ankle on a drive at the 10:27 mark and left the game. From there, things went from bad to outlandishly terrible in a hurry. The Heat continued to pour it on from outside, which opened things up in the lane as well. A late flurry consisting of a pair of Kristaps Porzingis put back dunks and a three pointer from just over half court gave Dallas a spark of hope as they closed out the frame. Miami led 37-23 after one period.
That late hope for Dallas got snuffed out by the Heat as their ridiculous shooting from three point range continued. Miami built their lead up to as many as 24 in the quarter. The Mavericks managed to work the lead down to 16 repeatedly, but played such poor transition defense the Heat always bounced right back. Porzingis continued his assault on the rim, adding two more dunks in the second through some elbow pick-and-roll plays with Dorian Finney-Smith. But those plays were about the only highlights as the Mavericks couldn’t string together stops to eat into the Miami lead. Dallas trailed 50-73 at the half.
The tables turned for a time in the third with the Mavericks coming out on fire to start the quarter, going on a huge run to cut the Miami lead from 23 down to 9. The Heat finally settled in and connected on a few shots, which re-upped their lead to 16. Jalen Brunson and Maxi Kleber contributed to another run which got the lead back down to nine and a Seth Curry jumper cut it to seven with just over a minute to go. Another Miami three put them back up 10 and neither team could score in the last minute, resulting in the Heat taking a 91-81 lead into the last quarter. Dallas played inspired defense in the frame following such a lackluster effort in the first half.
The Heat came out looking to close the door on Dallas and scored four straight, despite having Jimmy Butler on the bench. Then the Mavericks did the thing they’ve done all season: they kept fighting. Led by J.J. Barea off the bench, the Heat lead dwindled bit by bit. A Barea jumper, a Curry giant killing floater, a Maxi three pointer: all of a sudden Miami was up by just five. Barea’s pesky defense got Kendrick Nunn so flustered the Heat had to remove him from the game. A Barea lay up cut the lead to three around the seven minute mark. Miami stopped the bleeding for a time as the Maverick bench unit ran out of gas.
But a Maxi Kleber three and a Hardaway Jr. dunk (I think it was a dunk, it rattled out and then back in, does that count) cut the Heat lead to two points. Jimmy Butler calmed Miami again with a lay in out of a time out, but Tim Hardaway Jr. once again came up huge with a three from the top of the key.
A Brunson drive to Kleber for an oop gave the Mavericks their first lead then Porzingis nailed a three. The Heat answered with a corner three of their own to pull within one. Jalen Brunson then blew an open lay up on a backdoor cut. Porzingis missed a drive at the rim following an overturned offensive foul against Hardaway. Then Butler answered with a lay in of his own to retake the lead. Hardaway Jr., continued his out of body play and hit a terrible pull up three to give Dallas a 110-108 lead. Brunson extended the lead to four on a drive but the Heat answered right back, tying the game a 112 following some bad Maverick decision making. After both Hardaway and Butler miss, Dallas went to overtime for the first game this season.
In call backs to past seasons, the Mavericks play great in overtime, but lose their minds just often enough to give away the game. Despite going up four halfway in the frame, the offense loses their way and cant find a basket in the final three minutes of overtime. After going up 118-114, Jalen Brunson turned it over, Tyler Herro hit a huge three, and Porzingis got blocked by Adebayo. Adebayo then got a putback dunk to give Dallas the lead which they wouldn’t let go of. Brunson missed a lay up (should’ve been a foul call but) and Dallas gave up an offensive board after Butler somehow missed two free throws. Brunson missed the final three point attempt and loses the game following a Miami free throw, 122-118.
The Luka-less Mavericks will still put up a fight
There are about 100 different ways to look at this game. Big picture, losing Doncic stinks. That’s just obvious, he’s a dang MVP candidate! Small picture, it’s pretty maddening to lose a game in overtime after working all the way back down from 24 and having a four point lead late both in regulation and over time.
I want to nitpick the final 10 minutes of this game to death. But I’m not going to because there’s no real point. The Mavericks lost, sure, but we saw what they can be. They have a great net rating as a team without Doncic to date and while that’s largely because they’re playing bench units, rallying back like this is impressive. Though: they have four challenging games in a row, starting with this one.
Perhaps this stretch will give Porzingis a chance to find his shot
Let me be clear: Porzingis is playing solid basketball and every game he does multiple things that remind us of how good he can be. He’s attacking the rim on offense, he’s grabbing rebounds, and he’s playing great rim defense. Heck he had 22 points and 14 rebounds.
One thing he isn’t doing is shooting the ball well. I’m not a shooting expert, but his non-dunks are rough for stretches. He’s missing enough open looks to warrant some confusion, but we haven’t talked about it much because there are lots of possible reasons. With Luka’s 30 point averages likely missing from the line up for at least a few games, if not more, this will give Porzingis a chance to serve as more of an offensive key.
So long as he’s still getting and taking good shots, I hope Dallas pumps up his volume.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is playing out of his mind
I don’t know what else to say. But he’s playing so dang well this season I have to say something.
Defense is scheme plus effort
Back when I was a younger writer, I knew a lot more about how defenses worked. Now? Not so much. I don’t care for the Mavericks’ scheme, it’s conservative and they give up threes they shouldn’t for fear of getting beat to the basket. Miami lit the Mavericks on fire in the first half and a lot of them were open looks.
Did the Heat stop hitting shots in the second or did the Mavericks play better defense? Both, with the effort level and cohesion from the units cranking up a notch in that second half. With Luka out now, the Mavericks are doing to rely on that effort more. Let’s hope they bring it early and often Monday.
Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball”, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.