The Dallas Mavericks are off to a solid start to their 2013 campaign, giving a bit of hope to a fan base that was not exactly thrilled a season ago. At 5-3, Dallas is trying hard to keep up with the San Antonio Spurs who sit at 8-1 at the moment, and that task might be more and more daunting as the season goes along.
But, the playoffs are in sight nonetheless.
One of the reasons why Dallas has gotten off to a good start has been the play of newly-added guard Monta Ellis. He’s averaged a healthy 22.5 points, 4.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game while shooting over 47 percent from the field. Ellis, you could argue, has been the Mavs’ most important player thus far.
Going into Friday’s matchup with the Miami Heat, the Mavs will have to do a lot more than just see Ellis put points on the board. Obviously, one of the biggest keys to beating the Heat — also 5-3 — is attempting to contain LeBron James. How do you do that?
But, in trying to do so, the Mavs will have to keep James out of the paint as best they can. Forcing James outside and making him shoot jump shots is the best case scenario for Dallas. It’s a win-win for any team playing the Heat. On any James miss, he’s not there to grab the offensive board — which is the case many times when he drives to the lane.
James, obviously, has improved his jumper throughout the years and even this season is shooting 50 percent from three-point range. The Mavs can score with the Heat. That’s not a problem, boasting the league’s 4th-best offense. The issue with playing Miami will always, first and foremost, be to keep James out of the paint as much as possible.
If the Mavs can limit the amount of times James gets into the paint by collapsing an extra defender and at times even playing strict zone defense, they will have all the chance in the world to win this one.