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3 things to watch for when the Mavericks battle the Heat

Dallas looks to ride into the all-star break on a high note.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks (26-30) are looking to win four of the last six games going into the all-star break while the Miami Heat (25-30), who are only one game back of the eight seed in the East, try to stop a three-game skid.

The Mavericks are coming off a loss to the Houston Rockets on the second night of a back-to-back in which Luka Doncic posted at least 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the second straight game, but James Harden’s 31 points were too much to overcome.

Dallas catches a Miami team that has lost five of the last six and is coming off three straight losses to some of the West’s best in the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets.

Here’s what to watch for as the two teams face off for the first time this season.

Keeping Miami off the boards

When the Heat step into the American Airlines Center, the Mavericks will immediately be tasked with keeping Miami off the offensive glass. For the season the Heat grab 11.6 offensive rebounds per game (fourth best in the league) with the biggest contributor being Hassan Whiteside who pulls down 3.8 offensive boards per night.

While the numbers paint the Mavericks as solid rebounding team (45.7 rebounds per night for the season), the team’s rebounding numbers need to be looked at in two parts. From the beginning of the season until January 30, the Mavericks were the 11th best rebounding team in the league (46 boards per night), but since DeAndre Jordan’s departure, the team has grabbed only 43 rebounds per game, good for 17th best in the NBA per stats.

The Mavericks pulled down 47 rebounds last night, but Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber only grabbed a combined six boards. They’ll have their hands full keeping Whiteside and Bam Adebayo off the glass.

The Tim Hardaway Jr. rollercoaster

The last two games have been the complete THJ experience. In the Mavericks’ thrilling win against Portland, Hardaway was sensational, scoring 24 points on 50 percent shooting. He showed his playmaking ability and put pressure on the Trail Blazers defense every minute he was on the floor.

But against the Houston Rockets, Hardaway scored 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting (2-of-8 from three) and watched Justin Jackson play a majority of the late fourth quarter minutes. Part of Hardaway’s lure is the fact he’s playing with an elite playmaker in Doncic resulting in quality looks and less offensive pressure. And since the Mavericks and Hardaway are wedded for the foreseeable future, it’s important for him to look less like the New York Knick Hardaway version in each passing game.

Wade’s last tilt in the AAC

With Dwayne Wade announcing this is his last season, tonight marks the final time the veteran will play in the American Airlines Center. It’s been a storied career for the Miami icon, and Mavericks fans will never forget how much Wade tormented Dallas in the prime of his career. The 2006 Finals will always sting, even though the Mavericks were able to get revenge in 2011.

Wade’s legacy will always be somewhat tainted in Dallas after his free throw parade in the ‘06 Finals and the way he mocked Dirk’s cough in the ‘11 Finals, so it’ll be interesting to see the reception he gets in his last showing in Dallas. He and Dirk have already agreed to swap jerseys after the game, but let’s not forget that Wade and Dirk probably don’t have the best relationship compared to Dirk and his other peers no matter what nice guy Dirk says.

How to watch

The game tips at 7:30 CT and can be watched on Fox Sports Southwest or NBA League Pass.