Takeaways from the Heat’s loss to Mavericks, as struggles without Jimmy Butler continue

Anthony Chiang
·6 min read

Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 127-113 loss to the Dallas Mavericks (37-28) on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, which put an end to the Heat’s three-game winning streak:

With the Heat (35-31) missing three of its primary scoring options, it just could not keep up with superstar Luka Doncic and the Mavericks’ high-powered offense.

Tuesday marked the sixth consecutive game the Heat has played without Tyler Herro (right foot soreness) and 14th straight game without Victor Oladipo (right knee soreness). But the Heat did not expect to be without leading scorer Jimmy Butler.

Butler was ruled out for the contest just two hours before tip-off because of flu-like symptoms.

Coach Erik Spoelstra said during his pregame session with the media that Butler “really is not feeling well” but had tested negative for COVID-19. Spoelstra added that Butler went through the team’s morning shootaround in an effort to play against the Mavericks.

Instead, the Heat’s struggles this season without Butler continued.

Miami fell to 6-12 in games that Butler has missed this season. The Heat is 29-19 when he has been available.

The short-handed Heat started strong with 39 first-quarter points on 15-of-22 (68.2 percent) shooting from the field and 8-of-9 (88.9 percent) shooting on threes to lead by as many as 11 in the period. Miami entered the second quarter with a nine-point advantage.

But the Heat’s offense just could not sustain that level of efficiency without Butler on the court.

The Mavericks dominated the second quarter 33-15 to erase the Heat’s early lead and enter halftime ahead by nine. Miami shot just 4 of 22 (18.2 percent) from the field and 1 of 11 (9.1 percent) on threes in the second period.

The Heat never led in the second half, as the Mavericks’ offense kept rolling to cruise to the blowout victory. Dallas led by as many as 26 points.

The Mavericks, which entered with the NBA’s eighth-best offensive rating, just has too much firepower for the Butler-less Heat. Dallas scored 127 points on 52.9 percent shooting from the field and 22-of-48 shooting on threes in the win.

Doncic finished with 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting, 12 rebounds and eight assists

But Doncic received major help from Tim Hardaway Jr., the son for former Heat point guard Tim Hardaway. Hardaway Jr. scored 36 points on a career-high 10 made threes.

Duncan Robinson scored 19 points on 4-of-11 shooting from deep for the Heat.

Bam Adebayo nearly recorded a triple-double with 11 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists. He shot 4 of 10 on threes and 3 of 6 from the foul line.

Kendrick Nunn’s string of efficient performances ended Tuesday, as he scored 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting.

Even after the loss, the Heat remains in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings with just six games left on its regular-season schedule.

The fourth-place New York Knicks, fifth-place Atlanta Hawks and seventh-place Boston Celtics were all idle Tuesday.

No. 6 Miami now stands just one-half game ahead of No. 7 Boston (34-31), with the play-in tournament including the teams with the seventh-highest through the 10th-highest winning percentages in each conference. The Celtics lead the season series over the Heat 1-0, with two important matchups looming on Sunday and Tuesday in Boston.

The Heat is also now one game behind the No. 5 Atlanta Hawks (36-30), and the Hawks own the head-to-head tiebreaker because they won the season series over the Heat 2-1.

The No. 4 New York Knicks (37-28) are now 2.5 games ahead of the Heat. Miami owns the tiebreaker over New York after sweeping the season series.

The Heat has just six games remaining on its regular-season schedule. Up next is a matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Trevor Ariza played a big part in the Heat’s fast start, but he was quiet after opening the game with one of the highest-scoring quarters in his NBA career.

The veteran forward recorded 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 shooting on threes in the first quarter Tuesday. It marked just the seventh quarter in Ariza’s NBA career that he has scored 16 or more points in, with the last one coming in January 2016.

But Ariza was limited to just two points on 1-of-4 shooting over the final three quarters against the Mavericks.

The Heat’s bench has been a bright spot recently, but Butler’s absence forced a change to the reserve rotation.

With Butler, Herro and Oladipo out, Miami used a bench rotation of Goran Dragic, Dewayne Dedmon, Max Strus and KZ Okpala until Gabe Vincent and Precious Achiuwa entered in the fourth quarter with the Mavericks already ahead by double digits.

With Iguodala moved into the starting lineup in place of Butler, Okpala received minutes off the bench on Tuesday. Okpala finished with two points, two rebounds and one assist in 20 minutes.

After totaling 36 points in Wednesday’s win over the San Antonio Spurs, 36 points in Saturday’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers and 45 points in Sunday’s win over the Charlotte Hornets, the Heat’s reserves combined for 51 points against the Mavericks.

Dragic scored 19 points off the bench on 5-of-14 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 shooting from the foul line.

The Heat entered Tuesday averaging the ninth-fewest bench points per game in the league this season (33.4) on 43.3 percent shooting from the field and 33.4 percent shooting on threes.

This won’t count as Udonis Haslem’s 18th NBA season until he plays in a game. But even with just six regular-season games remaining, Spoelstra said not to sweat it.

“I’m going to make it happen,” Spoelstra said before Tuesday’s contest. “And again, his impact on this team has been, especially in a year like this where there has been just so many unpredictable things thrown at you. To have that kind of leadership brings stability to everybody in the locker room, whether you’re young or a 30-year-old veteran. UD is the guy who can bring that kind of leadership and stability. You just can’t put a price or an analytic on it.”

Haslem, who turns 41 on June 9 and is currently the oldest active player in the NBA, is the only player on the Heat’s roster who has yet to play this season. He’ll become the oldest player to appear in a game for the Heat in franchise history the next time he steps on the court.

Haslem, who has spent his entire NBA career with the Heat, could be back next season, too. He said Tuesday that he’s still undecided on when retirement will come.

“Man, I just take it one day at a time. We’ll figure it out,” Haslem said. “The goal now is to win a championship and then we’ll go from there. I can’t really think past today. I’ve been told just to take it one day at a time and when I get to the summer, that’s when I think about that. So that’s the advice I’m going to take from a wise man.”