MIAMI HEAT (27-32)
at DALLAS MAVERICKS (23-35)
Tip-off: Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Line: Dallas -1.5, Total: 200.5
The streaking Heat visit a reconfigured Mavs team Monday night.
The Miami Heat continue to inch closer to the once impossible-seeming goal of reaching the playoffs, as they have opened with two straight wins in post-All-Star break play. They won 108-90 in Atlanta last Friday as three-point underdogs, then returned home the next night to blow out Indiana by the same 18-point margin (MIA -4.5). Now 27-32 on the season (35-24 ATS), the Heat are only one game out of the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. After a day off on Sunday, the Heat will return to the court in Dallas for a nationally televised matchup with the Mavericks. While maybe not to the same degree as the Heat, Dallas has also seen a mid-season resurgence after a dismal start to the year. They’re 1-1 after the All-Star break, losing 97-84 at Minnesota on Friday (MIN -4) and winning 96-83 at home against New Orleans on Saturday (DAL +2). They’re 2.5 games out of the 8 seed in the West at 23-35 (31-27 ATS), but unlike Miami would seem to have very little hope of qualifying for the postseason. Over the last five seasons, home teams with winning percentages between .250 and .400 that have gone under the total by at least 18 total points in their last three games (DAL) are 15-35 ATS against teams with losing records when the line is between +3 and -3. In the same timeframe, February games involving a team coming off an upset win as an underdog (DAL) are 85-38 Under when the total is set at 200 or higher. Miami backup C Willie Reed will miss Monday’s game with ankle bursitis.
The Heat are led in scoring by PG Goran Dragic (20.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.0 SPG), who has posted a season that made him worthy of All-Star consideration after he generally struggled last year. October notwithstanding, he has upped his scoring average in every subsequent month this season and is currently putting up 22.4 PPG in February while shooting 54.7% from the floor. He leads all NBA point guards with a 48.4% field goal percentage on the season, and he’s been deadly from three-point range at 42.1% (third among PGs). The team’s other star is C Hassan Whiteside (16.6 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 2.06 BPG). Whiteside has the ability to completely disrupt other teams with his rim protection, as he is fourth in the NBA in blocked shots, and he is averaging career highs in points and rebounds. He only managed two points on 1-of-9 shooting against the Hawks, but rebounded with 22 points and 17 rebounds against Indiana. The real story since the calendar flipped, however, has been the performance of SG Dion Waiters (16.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1.0 SPG). Typically thought of as mercurial and something of a chucker, Waiters has blossomed this season in Miami. In the month of February, he’s averaging 19.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.0 BPG and 1.6 SPG. He has topped 20 points in three of his last four games. SG Tyler Johnson (13.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.2 SPG) and SG Rodney McGruder (6.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG) contribute on the wings, while PF James Johnson (12.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.1 BPG) can do everything at the four. He had 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists against the Pacers.
The Mavericks have seen some substantial roster upheaval in recent days. Second-year SG Justin Anderson (6.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG) and veteran C Andrew Bogut (3.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.0 BPG) were traded to Philadelphia for PF Nerlens Noel (8.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.5 SPG), and starting PG Deron Williams (13.1 PPG, 6.9 APG) was waived. Noel made his Mavericks debut against New Orleans, scoring nine points and pulling down 10 rebounds in 30 minutes of action. The dumping of Williams opens the door for sub-6-foot PG Yogi Ferrell (12.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.3 SPG) to enter the starting lineup. Ferrell caught on with the team after playing well on a 10-day contract at the end of January and beginning of February, and has been generally solid since. He’s struggled recently, though, scoring 17 total points on 7-of-26 shooting in his last three games. The Mavs have gone with a super-small-ball lineup recently, putting Ferrell alongside SG Seth Curry (12.0 PPG, 1.2 SPG) at the two, SG Wesley Matthews (15.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG) at the three, SF Harrison Barnes (20.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG) at the four and PF Dirk Nowitzki (13.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG) at the five. Barnes has been strong as the team’s leading scorer, as his shooting percentage (47.5%) has actually improved from last season (46.6%), when he was getting wide-open looks for the Warriors. Nowitzki still has plenty in the tank, as he scored 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds against the Pelicans. Curry has lived up to his family name in shooting 42.2% from three-point land, and Matthews is a solid starter, if not an ideal second option on offense. PG Devin Harris (6.2 PPG) and SF Dorian Finney-Smith (4.5 PPG) get consistent minutes off the bench.