Slumping Heat seek improvement vs. Mavs

NBA Basketball
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The slumping Miami Heat have lost two straight games to two of the NBA’s five-worst teams — the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.

On Friday, the Heat will play host to the rising Dallas Mavericks, a young team that has won two straight games.

Dallas’ stars are two Europeans — Kristaps Porzingis, 24, and Luca Doncic, who turns 21 on Friday.

“We’re still learning,” Doncic said of the relatively inexperienced Mavs. “It’s not always going to be perfect.”

Even so, there’s a lot of potential on the Mavs. Doncic, a 6-foot-7, second-year guard from Slovenia, is sixth in the NBA in scoring, averaging 28.7 points. He also leads the team in rebounds (9.6) and assists (8.7).

Porzingis, a 7-3 center from Latvia, leads the team in blocks (1.9) and ranks second in scoring (18.7) and rebounds (9.2).

In Wednesday’s 109-103 win over the host San Antonio Spurs, Porzingis had 28 points and 12 rebounds, and Doncic added 26 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds.

“We’re getting to know each other and the little details of the game,” said Porzingis, a former New York Knicks star who is in his first season playing with Doncic. “We have better rhythm now.”

The Heat, meanwhile, have no rhythm at the moment, having lost seven of nine games. Much of that has to do with seven road games during that stretch and the Heat’s poor 13-18 road record.

But on Wednesday, the Heat sunk to a new low by losing to Minnesota at home. The Timberwolves entered that game having lost 18 of their previous 19 games overall.

“We just don’t know,” Heat veteran guard Goran Dragic said of the loss. “It’s frustrating. It feels like we’re not the same team we were in the first half of the season.”

Miami’s 23-4 home record is still one of the three best marks in the NBA. But this slump has to be a concern for the Heat.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is trying to steady the proverbial ship, saying — in essence — that this too shall pass.

“I just think that this is our period of the season where we have adversity,” Spoelstra said.

Friday’s game should be interesting because Doncic and Dragic are countrymen. When the Mavs visited Miami last season, there were more than 2,000 Slovenians attending the game, and a similar showing is expected on Friday.

Dragic, who on Wednesday passed Grant Long for 10th place on the Heat career scoring list, is one of the veteran leaders on the team, along with Jimmy Butler and emerging star Bam Adebayo.

Butler leads Miami in scoring (20.5), assists (6.2) and steals (1.8). Adebayo leads the team in rebounds (10.5) and blocks (1.2) while also ranking third in points (16.2) and second in assists (5.1).

Adebayo is playing despite a sprained right ankle. In fact, his streak of consecutive games played is at 144, which puts him in fourth place in franchise history.

Dragic is Miami’s top reserve, ranking second in points (16.3) and third in assists (5.0).

The Heat again are expected to be without Tyler Herro and center Meyers Leonard, who have each missed nine straight games due to ankle injuries.

Dallas is without 7-foot center Willie Cauley-Stein, who is expected to miss another couple of games due to personal reasons. Mavs guard Jalen Brunson (shoulder) and power forward Dwight Powell (foot) are also out.

–Field Level Media

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