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Wins becoming more crucial for slumping Mavs, Heat

Feb 13, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (2) celebrates with Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat welcome the Dallas Mavericks to town on Saturday with both teams looking to snap recent cold spells that have impacted their postseason aspirations.

Miami (40-37) dropped its third straight on Wednesday with a 101-92 loss at New York. The defeat dropped Miami to 1 1/2 games behind Brooklyn for the Eastern Conference’s sixth and final guaranteed playoff berth, with the Nets set to play the eighth-place Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.

“Losing is what got us here,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said via the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “None of us feel good about it. This is where we are. You are what your record is. You are what has happened recently. But things can change quickly.”

A reversal of fortune in the closing stretch of this regular season likely requires improved offense for Miami.

The Heat’s ongoing skid began March 25 with a 129-100 loss to Brooklyn. Scoring 92 points in each of its two outings since, Miami is averaging just 95.8 points in its last four losses dating back to a 113-99 loss March 18 at Chicago.

While the Heat rank last in the NBA for scoring offense, that four-game average is almost 13 points a contest fewer than their 108.7 season output.

Dallas (37-40) endured its own offensive woes Wednesday, particularly in a 17-point fourth quarter to conclude the Mavericks’ 116-108 loss at Philadelphia.

The Mavericks led by as many as 12 points in the first half but struggled both with turnovers and shot-making after intermission en route to their fifth loss in six games.

Luka Doncic scored 24 points and Kyrie Irving finished with 23. In his postgame press conference, however, Dallas coach Jason Kidd said the team is still finding its rhythm offensively with the All-Star duo sharing the backcourt.

“That’s something we got to figure out on the run,” Kidd said. “Luka’s dominated the first quarter. We’re trying not to affect that. At the same time, what we’ve found out with (Irving) is that (Irving) is not always about scoring. He can set a screen and get a teammate a shot and we’re trying to lean into that a little more, use him as a screener to create easy looks for other guys.”

Tim Hardaway Jr. was the only other Maverick to score in double-figures against the 76ers, posting 21 points.

With the exception of the 125 points it scored in a two-point loss to Golden State on March 22, Dallas scored more than four points fewer than its season average (113.8) in the other four defeats during this skid.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks head into Saturday’s penultimate game of a five-game road swing and first leg of a weekend back-to-back trying to work its way into the top 10 of the Western Conference.

Dallas’ ongoing slide dropped it to 11th in the West, a game behind Oklahoma City for the conference’s final play-in spot before the Thunder’s Friday trip to Indiana. The Mavericks held a tenuous, half-game advantage over 12th place Utah ahead of the Jazz’s meeting with Boston on Friday.

–Field Level Media

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