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Mavericks vs. Heat preview: Find answers at home vs. Miami

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the Dallas Mavericks (24-22) They’re facing a lot of questions in January, and they’re hoping to find some answers on Friday night when they host Miami Heat (25-21) at the American Airlines Center. Luka Doncic and co. Follows December winning streak by going 4-6 in its last 10 games. He didn’t turn into a full free fall, but he was a worrisome stretch before heading into the All-Star break.

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The Heat find themselves in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, battling it out in the dreaded Championship Play. However, they have been playing really well lately, winning 7 of their last 10 matches which includes victories over Milwaukee Bucks (twice, both without Giannis) and New Orleans Pelicans.

Winning in the half of the field

Both teams prefer to play slowly and in their half of the field. This can sometimes work in the team’s favor, overriding any need for fighting styles. But the Mavericks often use this clash to their advantage, so the inability to weaponize this is worth noting. The Mavericks and Heat are 29th and 28th respectively this season in pace.

Both teams also rank in the top six in the league in turnover per game and the top nine in turnover percentage. The Mavericks are desperate for any defensive identity, while the Heat have it at their core; The kernel that often causes annoying Mavericks problems. A half-court play can tell the story on Friday night.

wood replacement

The Mavericks were lucky to see the return of Dorian Vinnie Smith and Josh Green Wednesday night, and the return of Tim Hardaway Jr. on Friday. But it all comes down to it when the Mavericks announce that Christian Wood is out with a fractured left hand. It is unclear how severe the injury was, which he sustained on a dunk in the second half of Wednesday’s loss to the Hawks (he played the rest of the game).

Wood moved into a full-time starting role last month, joining that unit for his last 16 starts. The Mavericks went 9-7 in those contests. Much has been discussed about Wood’s impact on winning basketball this year. But one thing’s for sure: He did put up a few goals, and the Mavericks were very weak at the post. This likely means increased minutes for Dwight Powell, JaVale McGee assumes. Wood’s inside defense hasn’t been consistent outside of crossbar shots, but the team simply doesn’t have the personnel to adequately replace his minutes. Coach Jason Kidd and his crew will need to get creative.

Find a defense

The Mavericks have been terrible defensively all season. But it’s been especially bad since we got into January. In nine games this month, the Mavericks have had a defensive rating of 122.6, which is 29th in the league. They went 3-6 in those games, just better than Houston Rockets who do not win in the same stretch.

Lately, it often feels like a throw-in line at the end of the opponent’s floor. Whatever defensive rules are in place to keep drivers out have gone out the window, and any resistance posted on the backline is unseen. So what changes? effort, I think. The Mavericks are undoubtedly missing a healthy Maxi Clipper, and are just now seeing the return of two of their best defensive wingers. Perhaps their presence, in time, could calm the storm. Seeing any ounce of improvement in that end on Friday would be a bright spot.

How do you watch

Tip-off is set for 6:30 PM CST and can be watched on ESPN.

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