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3 things we observed as the Mavericks fall to the Heat, 105-99

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Dallas had the game in hand but faltered late as the Heat inch closer to the playoffs.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks kicked off their two game road trip with a visit to South Beach to take on the Miami Heat who is in the thick of the playoff race in the East.

The Mavericks’ season, on the other hand, has been over for quite some time, but each game carries significant weight if these are truly Dirk Nowitzki’s last games. Dallas has scored 119 points per game in the last six outings, so tonight was a bit of a crawl, but here’s what we observed in tonight’s tilt:

Miami defended Luka Doncic well

It’s funny saying that considering Doncic posted 19 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but he didn’t have an overall efficient game. He shot just 6-of-18 from the field and 3-of-9 from three, settling for a few of his step-back threes in situations where he probably should have attacked. The Heat elected to trap Doncic in the pick-and-roll and it proved to be effective. Guarded by a longer defender like Derrick Jones Jr., the rookie was typically met with a hard hedge by Bam Adebayo after he used a ball screen.

To Doncic’s credit, he slung cross court passes to shooters people in the corner, but the aggressive defense seemed to throw him off. He coughed the ball up six times and only got to the line six times compared to 11 attempts in each of the past two games. The Heat seemed adamant about getting the ball out of Doncic’s hands, and it worked.

Goran Dragic was a problem

In his first start since December 10, Dragic went nuts recording his second career triple double with 23 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. The native Slovenian started the game off finding teammates for two lobs in the first two possessions, and he was a thorn in the Mavericks’ defensive side knifing through the lane all night. He finished the game making nine of his 17 attempts, but he did miss his two three-point attempts.

The Mavericks will almost certainly be linked to Dragic at some point this summer. An all star last year, Dragic will be 33 by the start of next season, but it’s clear he is still a force when healthy.

Dirk and Wade’s last dance

Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck came out with a fantastic piece reminiscing on Dirk and Dwayne Wade’s unlikely rivalry. After two Finals battles and 15 seasons of competition, the two NBA legends faced each other for the final time. Coming into tonight, Dirk and Wade’s head-to-head statistics were eerily similar:

Wade will retire with 18 total wins compared to Nowitzki’s 17, and I’ll never quite forgive Wade for questioning Dirk’s leadership after the ‘06 Finals, but like Beck’s piece alludes to, we wouldn’t have the Dirk we’re so fond of without Wade, and Miami wouldn’t have the Wade they’ve grown to love without Dirk.

As far as tonight’s game went, Dirk outscored Wade 13 to 11, and hit this beauty over his long-time competitor:

Dirk is averaging 9.6 points while shooting 48 percent from the field and 47 percent from three in his last 10 games.

Please come back one more year, Dirk.