Mavericks-Heat Preview

LeBron James doesn’t take too kindly to losing, especially on a
grand stage.

The four-time league MVP will try to continue his strong play
against the Dallas Mavericks as the Heat seek a fifth straight
victory in this series Friday night.

Since losing the 2011 NBA Finals to the Mavericks, James has
spurred the Heat to four victories in as many games, averaging 28.0
points and 10.0 rebounds while shooting 57.4 percent. Miami (5-3)
has won those games by an average of 14.3 points, shooting 49.5
percent and scoring 110.0 points per game.

Miami has won four of its past five games, and is coming off a
118-95 victory on Tuesday night against the Bucks.

”It wasn’t perfect,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”There
were still some areas we definitely need to improve on, in terms of
the details and discipline. But at least the effort, the effort,
the activity was better, the disposition right from the beginning
and it carried through once we got into the rotation.”

James played a season-low 30 minutes as he continues to battle a
sore back but did take a season-high 21 shots as he finished with
33 points. Reserve Michael Beasley added 19 points as Miami (5-3)
shot a season-best 58.2 percent.

“It means that my hard work is not going to vain,”said Beasley,
who has scored 29 points his last two games. “I’m doing it to help
my teammates because at the end of the day I don’t want to let
those guys down.”

The Heat – the only team in the league shooting above 50.0
percent (52.5) – have scored at least 100 points in all eight of
their games and are tied with the Mavericks among the league
leaders in scoring at 106.8 per game.

In addition to its potent offense, Dallas (5-3) has seen
improved its play on the defensive end recently, a major reason for
their fast start to the season. The Mavericks are forcing 18.8
turnovers per game, third-most in the NBA, and using those extra
offensive possessions to pull away from opponents.

“We’re getting better each and every game,” Mavericks reserve
forward Vince Carter told the team’s official website. “Our
rotations are better. Our individual defense has been better. But
just more than anything our help side and our team defense has been
better, and it’s fueled our offense.”

Carter is one of eight Mavericks players averaging 8.1 points or
more, and the balanced scoring output has been as important as the
pressure defense in the Mavericks’ winning ways. Veteran Dirk
Nowitzki and free agent pickup Monta Ellis lead the way on the
offensive end, with Ellis averaging a team-best 22.5 points and
Nowitzki contributing 18.3 per game.

The Mavericks enter the matchup in Miami having won two
straight, most recently defeating the Wizards 105-95 on Tuesday
night in Dallas. Nowitzki passed Jerry West for 16th on the NBA’s
all-time scoring list and has 25,197 points after netting 19 in the

”Jerry is the man,” said Nowitzki, who has averaged 23.7
points in 28 regular-season games versus Miami. ”He is the logo
and that says it all. It has been a great ride.”

James shot 20 of 33 in the sweep of Dallas last season and
finished one assist shy of a triple-double in Miami’s 119-109
overtime victory Jan. 2 in the most recent meeting.