The Miami Heat got off to a good—but certainly not great—start in the new year, knocking off the visiting Dallas Mavericks 119-109 in overtime Wednesday night. Coming off of a couple of losses and a very dicey win over the Orlando Magic, the Heat were in need of a pushover opponent.
The Mavs, losers of nine of their previous 11 coming in, certainly looked like an easy mark on paper. But the Heat needed a huge effort from LeBron James and a couple of big shots from Shane Battier to escape with the win.
Miami continued to struggle on the glass, despite matching up with the NBA's worst rebounding team. The Heat lost the battle on the boards, 47-46.
The other key area of concern for the Heat of late had been the lack of production from players not named LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. The Heat bench turned in another underwhelming effort, so that issue remains unresolved.
James put in another stat-stuffing performance, and the Heat needed every one of his 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.
A win's a win, no matter how ugly or how soft the opponent is. But the big issues that have plagued the Heat during a shaky finish in 2012 are still around in 2013. On to the grades.
Mario Chalmers: C-
Mario Chalmers improved on his recent string of subpar performances, but considering how poorly he'd been playing over his previous three games, that didn't take much.
After scoring just 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting in Miami's three most recent contests, the Heat point guard finished with nine points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals versus the Mavs.
Perhaps more importantly, Chalmers did a few of the little things. He harassed Mavs ball-handlers, forced a handful of turnovers and did a decent job of getting out on the break.
Stepping back a bit, the biggest storyline involving Chalmers may actually have been the fact that he lost fourth-quarter minutes to Norris Cole.
Using Cole to cut into Chalmers' playing time is a huge statement from Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, considering Cole has been one of the league's least productive players this season. But hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.
It may not be a huge issue, as the Heat opted to go without Chalmers or Cole down the stretch, but the minute distribution at the point bears watching.
Dwyane Wade: B
Usually, we start our analysis with a look at offensive production, but just for the sake of change, we'll look at Wade's night primarily from a defensive perspective.
Sorry, Dwyane, you're not going to like this.
Other than a nice block on one of O.J. Mayo's jumpers, Wade didn't do much to slow down the Mavs' resurgent shooting guard. Mayo, who came into this one averaging just 12.3 points on 38 percent shooting in his last 10 games, led the Mavs with 30 points on 12-of-21 shooting.
In fact, Spoelstra was so concerned with Mayo's scoring that he actually switched James onto him for a stretch in the fourth quarter.
The season stats say Wade has been pretty decent on D this year, and he still manages the occasional highlight block or sneaky steal. But he absolutely lost track of Mayo at critical times in the fourth quarter and didn't defend him all that well when he was nearby.
Wade got his numbers with a volume effort and good foul shooting, but his final stat line of 27 points, 10 rebounds and five assists gives a slightly inflated idea of his performance. He really hurt Miami on defense down the stretch.
LeBron James: A
James was more aggressive than usual to start the game, getting up eight first-quarter shots and clearly making an effort to push the pace. That didn't work out so well for the Heat, as the Mavericks took an early lead despite James' efforts to force the tempo.
In recent games, James has gotten into the habit of starting fast, coasting for a couple of quarters and flipping the switch back to the "on" position in the fourth. That'd be a fine strategy if the rest of the Heat could be counted on to pick up the slack, but it appeared James wasn't going to take that chance against the Mavs.
He kept the pedal down all night, and if he hadn't, the Heat probably wouldn't have managed to escape this game with a win.
As usual, his final stat line looks like it belongs in a video game. LBJ finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists and three steals on 11-of-20 shooting.
It's boring to keep doling out high grades for James, but we'll stop giving them when he stops earning them.
Udonis Haslem: C
Coming off a terrible effort against the Orlando Magic, you might have thought Udonis Haslem would come out focused in an effort to erase the memory of his recent performance. Instead, he played with an early aggressiveness that earned him a pair of quick fouls and a trip to the bench.
Overall, Haslem played just 20 minutes and didn't see much time down the stretch. He ended up with four points, six rebounds and three steals.
It's hard to see where Haslem fits into the Heat rotation going forward. He's never been much of a scorer, and now he doesn't really seem to be a valuable defensive or rebounding presence, either.
At least he's good in the locker room.
Chris Bosh: C-
As was the case against the Magic, Bosh had a nice offensive game, but struggled mightily to keep opposing centers off of the glass. It's understandable when larger, "true" centers like Chris Kaman do damage against the Heat on the boards, but even when the Mavs went small, Bosh couldn't keep Dallas off the boards.
Overall, Bosh finished with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, but his total no-show on the glass (four rebounds) was a huge negative for the Heat.
It's nice to get 22 rebounds from James and Wade combined, but the Heat shouldn't have to count on their wings to shoulder such a heavy load on the boards. If Bosh is going to continue to play center, he'll have to put up more of a fight as a rebounder.
Ray Allen: B+
Usually, Allen's grade is the result of a "good news, bad news" analysis. He almost always knocks down a high percentage of his shots in limited minutes, but just as often, he gets burnt to a crisp on D.
Against the Mavericks, the Heat sharpshooter gave Miami an almost unadulterated dose of good news.
Allen finished with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting and a surprising seven rebounds in 27 minutes.
Best of all, he also didn't get his usual torching on the defensive end. For some reason, the Mavs didn't attack Allen the way many other teams have this year. Some of that might have had to do with Allen matching up on the offensively limited Dahntay Jones fairly often, but hey, Miami will take it.
There's no kind way to say it, so we'll just cut to the chase: The Heat bench has been atrocious lately.
Altogether Wednesday night, Cole, Battier, Joel Anthony and Mike Miller combined to score 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting. So, clearly, that trend continued.
Coming into this one, Cole had been awful across the board. He was only slightly less terrible in this game, scoring four points on 2-of-7 shooting. Miller, meanwhile, played less than eight minutes, shot three triples and made one.
But it wasn't a total disaster for the Heat reserves.
On a night where he hardly affected the game in the first 47 minutes, Battier hit a clutch go-ahead triple with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter. Sure, Dirk Nowitzki scored on the next play to send the game to OT, but Battier hit yet another huge long-range bomb to help ice the game in OT.
On the night, Miami's cerebral wing finished with just those six points.
Thanks to Battier's late-game heroics, an otherwise terrible game from Miami's bench earns a generous—but still just average—grade.