The Dallas Mavericks (34-24) got a huge win over the best team in the East, defeating the Heat (37-21) in Miami on Tuesday night 107-99. Luka Doncic had 21 points, while Jalen Brunson and Maxi Kleber each had 19 for Dallas. Jimmy Butler had 29 points and Bam Adebayo had 21 points for Miami. Miami is an excellent home team, now 19-7 after the loss, so this is the type of gutsy win the post trade deadline Mavericks can hang their hats on.
With Reggie Bullock out with a hip injury, Josh Green joined Luka, Jalen, Dorian, and Dwight in the starting lineup. It was clear from the jump that Miami’s game plan was to make a Maverick other than Luka beat them as they sent multiple players at him every time he drove to the basket. Heat pressure and some new rotations made for a sloppy looking quarter and the Mavs found themselves down 28-23 at the end of the first.
The second quarter was more of the same. Miami hounded Maverick ball handlers and feasted in the paint to build a 13 point lead at 59-46 before Dallas scored the last five points of the period to keep the deficit at single digits at the half. Dallas kept themselves in the game by taking care of the ball and going 9-of-22 from three point range but Miami had their way in the paint with a whopping 32-8 advantage on points in the paint.
Clearly in need of size against a physical Miami squad, Jason Kidd started Maxi Kleber in place of Josh Green for the second half and the team responded with much more force defensively holding Miami to a 19 point quarter. Luka was doubled and trapped all game but got very aggressive at the end of the third. He attacked over and over and was able to get himself to the free throw line to keep the Mavericks offense going until a flurry of scoring at the end of the period had turned Dallas’ eight point deficit into a three point lead.
Dallas kept playing with energy in the fourth and pushed their lead up to 10. Jimmy Butler relentlessly forced his way into the paint and got Miami into the bonus with over six minutes to go in the game to keep Miami within reach. Fortunately, Dallas owned clutch time, holding Miami off late with big stops and clutch shots from Jalen Brunson and Maxi Kleber to seal the huge win on the road against a contender.
Some observations from the game.
Player of the Game — Maxi Kleber!
This was easily Maxi Kleber’s best game of the season. He was truly electric in the second half. His defensive presence was obvious when the tide was turning in the game and his rebounding and shot making were timely down the stretch. His block on Bam at the rim on a lob with 3:06 to go in the fourth was THE moment of the game. The block was called a foul and at first glance, it seemed to be a good call, but Kidd challenged and another angle showed Maxi knocking the ball away cleanly. If he doesn’t make that play, Miami is on the free throw line with a chance to cut the lead to two. Maxi stuffed the box score with 19 points, six rebounds, FIVE momentum changing blocks, and a late dagger three. He also played excellent on ball defense against Butler late in the game without fouling. What a game for Maxi.
Guarding the rim
The Mavericks committed to playing small defensively when they traded Kristaps Porzingis last week. We’ve seen them play plenty of games without him so there’s not reason to believe they won’t be able to survive most nights without a rim protector but a well coached team like Miami mad things difficult. Whether he was rolling hard to the rim or facing up and driving, it was clear that Miami’s Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler had no fear of any of the Mavericks defenders in the first half.
Dallas started Kleber in the second half and they attacked Miami ball handlers when they faced up. It spoiled everything that was working for Miami in the first half. The Heat were still intent on attacking the basket but the points didn’t come nearly as easily. Maxi’s five blocks were huge for the Mav’s defense down the stretch, but everyone played defense with a purpose in the second half and it won them the game.
How’d the new guys play?
New Maverick Spencer Dinwiddie entered the game half way through the first and joined Luka and Jalen to create a Rick Carlisle Special — a three guard lineup. Unfortunately, the Heat answered by going on a little run. Spencer scored his first basket at 8:32 in the second quarter on a nifty drive to the basket but ended up minus-17 in the first half. He also missed his first four free throws. He did, however, show off his playmaking with five assists and ended the game just minus-4. Those assists should be a welcome addition to the Mavericks’ offense that has been desperate for more playmaking at times.
Davis Bertans checked in with two minutes to go in the first and hit his first three as a Maverick one minute into the second quarter and his second about 30 seconds later. He’s not shy and those quick baskets were a reminder that he can be a dangerous shooter in the corner for this team. Bertans scored another quick six points at the end of the third when he followed a quick release three pointer from the wing with a breakaway and-1 dunk. Davis finished with 12 points in 13 minutes. Not bad!
Free throw woes down the stretch
Dallas missed too many free throws in this one. They were 21-of-33 from the line for 63.6% and missed a few late that could have sealed the game earlier. The win improved Dallas to 13-7 in clutch games with Luka (and 0-of-8 without him — yuck!) but missing free throws in bunches is a good way to lose a game you should win. They got away with it this time.
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