Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Defense Does It Again as Mavericks Snuff Out Miami Heat's Streak

MIAMI -- The Dallas Mavericks were the last team to beat the Miami Heat 24 days ago on November 27 to drop them to 9-8, sparking a players-only meeting to address their shortcomings amid heavy criticism directed at their superstars and head coach Erik Spoelstra. Twelve straight wins later, the Heat had quickly turned their season around and were eager to not only keep their streak alive in the rematch in Miami (with only two more victories needed for a franchise record) but also to break a string of 13 regular-season games lost to Dallas. In the end, only one streak would survive. 

"It was a very good game, a very hard-fought game," said Dwyane Wade after the game. "It came down to them getting the breaks at the end that we didn't get." 

Mavs Defense Proving Too Tough to Break Through 

The Heat's opponents this month were unable to contain them in transition but the Mavs' length and zone defense proved to be their formula for success as Wade and particularly James (scoreless in the first half) struggled to break out and score in bunches near the rim. 

"The last two games I feel like we played some great defense," said Mavs center Tyson Chandler. "It seemed like the longer our winning streak was going, we started to take a step back and relax on the defensive end. We took that loss (against Milwaukee) and I think it woke everybody back up and now we're communicating out there and actually following the coach's game plan. This has to be our identity if we want to have a special year, we got to think defense first." 

The Mavs over the years haven't exactly been known for their lockdown defense as much as their offense, featuring such prolific scorers in Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry. But this year's team, which ranks in the top five in opponent shooting percentage, points allowed and defensive rebounds, is changing that. 

"Our defense is really what's keeping us in the game," said Mavs forward Shawn Marion. "Tonight wasn't the best offensive night but our defense held it together. We were able to get stops when we needed to and got some big rebounds and got it done." 

Too Many Threes for the Heat 

With the Mavs packing the paint, the Heat were trigger-happy beyond the arc and finished with a season-high 31 three-point attempts, almost twice their season average. 

LeBron James"When you get an offensive rebound against the zone the easiest look is to spread the ball out for a three so we still shot at a good clip from the three-point line," explained James. "One possession in the second quarter I think we took 7 straight threes off of offensive rebounds and finally nailed the last one." 

"It's not ideal for us, of course," agreed Wade. "We would love to get to the basket more. We thought we had some good threes but a lot of them didn't go in." 

You Had to Be There 

A packed American Airlines Arena, featuring celebrities such as Dave Chappelle, Flo Rida, Jimmy Buffett and Dan Marino, was treated to an emotional night with several highs and lows, with one highlight being a standing ovation for the regular-season debut of Heat newcomer Mike Miller. The jeers for the Mavs during the player introductions were easily the most boisterous so far this season. 

You Had to Be There II 

The Heat have played the most games of any NBA team and James was asked by a reporter at the end of his media interview whether the Heat's run of seven games in the last eleven days may have been a factor. While giving his response he suddenly stopped and took a good look at who had asked the question. 

"You look kind of tired," observed James to a roar of laughter from the press. "You're more tired than we are." 

While leaving the room, James noted that they didn't play until Thursday and advised the reporter to "get some sleep."


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