LeBron James, Shawn Marion

It took a huge game from LeBron James to beat the Dallas Mavericks the first time they met with the Miami Heat this season, and it’s probably going to be something along the same lines for the NBA champions and MVP in order to keep their good form going on the road.

The Miami Heat have won five of their last six games, including that dramatic win over the Golden State Warriors with James hitting a game-winning 3-point shot in a huge 36-point night from him. He scored 39 points back in November when the two teams met, and with Dwyane Wade probably less than 100% despite used for less than 12 minutes in the All-Star game, his migraines and nerve damage in his foot will be keeping him off the court more than the Heat would like.

It’s not just resting Wade for the playoffs: The Miami Heat play the Oklahoma City Thunder 24 hours later and even though not every game matters in the regular season, especially for a team that’s more worried about having Dwyane Wade and other healthy for the playoffs than getting home court advantage at any cost, the Thunder beating the Heat in Miami by 17 points means that Miami will live with losing to Dallas if it gives them everyone healthy and rested for OKC.

The Mavs have won six of their last seven, trying to solidify their sixth spot in the West, although they are only two games above ninth spot in a very tight playoff race. Dirk Nowiztki didn’t play much in the All-Star game, having a sprained ankle keep him on the court for only 8.5 minutes, not to mention the alienating time-sharing from Scott Brooks, which didn’t sit well with some players.

Miami have beaten Dallas five consecutive times since the 2011 NBA finals and while the Mavs do play with an actual center, they don’t have the fearsome offensive rebounding presence that usually gives the Miami Heat so much trouble. Quick ball movement from Calderon and Ellis to stretch the floor is usually more useful when trying to make the Heat feel uncomfortable defensively.

One of the things it takes to trouble the Heat is playing good defense in order to make this a quick game, something the Heat have been struggling more and more with this season. The Mavs are 23rd in the NBA, allowing 104.3 points per 100 possessions, which means it’s going to take a special shooting night in order for them to beat a fully healthy and serious Miami Heat team.

Prediction – The Heat are rested and ready to kick it into another gear, hopefully with Wade following suit. Although they struggle in containing Dirk Nowitzki, the rest of the Mavs team shouldn’t be that much of a problem, and Miami will kick off their post All-Star stretch with a win.

Image: Source