The Miami Heat are starting to find their top form with five wins in the last seven games and hope to continue the trend when they open a four-game homestand against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday. Miami knocked off Boston 90-89 on Wednesday without its top two scorers as former Celtics center Kelly Olynyk drained six 3-pointers en route to a season-high 32 points.
“We’re getting there,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters. “Each painful step that we take in this 82-game ride, we’re learning tough lessons. We’re feeling pain. We’re improving on things. Sometimes it’s one step back, two steps forward.” Miami hopes to turn its fortunes around at home where it has lost seven of 13 games this season and faces a Dallas team that is coming off one of its best games of the season. Rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. returned after missing six games with a strained hip to score 15 points and hand out five assists in 21 minutes as the Mavericks rolled over Detroit 110-93 on Wednesday for just their second win in eight contests. “I was just coming out trying to do what I do,” Smith, who is averaging 14.4 points in 24 games, told reporters. “My legs were heavy at first. I had to get my second wind.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Southwest (Dallas), FSN Sun (Miami)
ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (9-23): Forward Harrison Barnes led the way with 25 points in the win over Detroit and leads the team in scoring (18.5) and rebounds (7.1) while playing in all 32 games. Coach Rick Carlisle told reporters it’s never good to have an injury but Smith needed a breather 24 games into his rookie campaign, and the ninth-overall pick in the last draft provided a spark for Dallas. Guard Yogi Ferrell continues to get more minutes and he is making the best of them, averaging 14 points over the last five games and 11.7 this month.
ABOUT THE HEAT (16-15): Guard Goran Dragic (elbow) and forward James Johnson (ankle) each missed the last two games and center Hassan Whiteside (knee) sat out his 11th straight game Wednesday, taking 42.4 points out of the lineup. Forward Josh Richardson has picked up some of the slack, averaging 24.3 points over the last three games to raise his season mark to 11.6 - fourth on the team. Miami needs more consistency out of guard Dion Waiters (14.7 points), who scored 23 in a loss at Atlanta before managing 10 on 3-of-11 shooting versus Boston.
1. Dallas F Dirk Nowitzki needs one 3-pointer to snap a tie with Chauncey Billups (1,830) for 12th on the NBA’s all-time list.
2. Olynyk is averaging 11.6 points and 5.5 rebounds in December after putting up 7.9 and 4.7, respectively, last month.
3. The Heat had won three straight meetings before dropping a 96-89 decision at Dallas last February.
PREDICTION: Heat 102, Mavericks 92