Heat vs Mavericks NBA Handicapping
Is the NBA on the level?
There are elite teams, of course, but is the playing field level for everyone? Or does the league give a huge edge to superstars, as ref-gone-bad Tim Donaghy alleges?
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Miami Heat (16-6) at Dallas Mavericks (12-13)
Thursday, Dec. 20
American Airlines Center, Dallas
9:30 p.m. EST (TNT)
Spread – Heat -5.5 Bovada
O/U – 200.5
Well, whatever side you come down on, digest the following statistic:
LeBron James has not been called for a foul since Dec. 8. His Heat have played four games since he was last whistled for any kind of foul, on offense or defense. James was hit for two against New Orleans 12 days ago, but has gone Scot free in the last four games — against Atlanta, Golden State, Washington and Minnesota.
During those four games James has logged 155 court minutes. And zero fouls. Zilch.
The streak is more than amazing considering that in Miami’s offense James has touches on just about every halfcourt possession, and that the defense revolves around his ability to use his body up, play physically and force turnovers.
That he can play for more than 2 1/2 hours without fouling is . . . well, maybe David Stern has a good explanation for it.
James will no doubt give Dallas’s O.J. Mayo his toughest matchup this season. With Dirk Nowitzki just starting to get back on the court again as he recovers from Oct. 19 arthroscopic knee surgery, Mayo – as much out of necessity as anything — has become the Mavs’ go-to man on offense as they try to keep things from falling completely apart.
But no-calls against James are just one of the problems facing the Mavericks tonight.
PG Derek Fisher (right knee) won’t play, and Elton Brand and Brandan Wright are both game-time decisions. Brand has groin issues and Wright is dealing with a sprained ankle. All three were hurt in Tuesday’s game against Philadelphia.
If they can’t go, the rotation is razor thin.
Dallas knows that the train doesn’t leave the station until Nowitzki returns, and the all-star forward is hoping that he’ll be a go shortly after Christmas.
“This is the first day we’re stopping, pushing off, moving, and we’ll just see how (the knee) reacts,” he said on Wednesday. “I’m gonna do that a couple of times and do some contact for a while, and maybe anytime after Christmas I’ll be fine.”
THE PICK – The Heat are not lighting things up on a consistent basis – they’re just 4-3 SU in their last seven, and on the road they’re 4-4. But Dallas has been forced to play three overtimes (two of them in a loss at Boston) in the last eight days and just might not have enough gas to run with the Heat.
Miami should be able to absorb 5.5 and cover this one, even though Dallas has been a decent SU (8-3) home team this season.