During that short plane ride up to Orlando late Friday night, the Dallas Mavericks likely thought about all those missed opportunities they fumbled away in their game against the Miami Heat earlier in the night.
They probably also thought about all those uncontested layups and dunks the Heat managed to incorporate into their game at the Mavs’ expense.
It seemed as though every time the Mavs did something decent to get themselves back into the game, they wound up stumbling and bumbling and turning the ball over, allowing the Heat to establish more separation.
By the time everything settled, the Mavs had turned the ball over a season-high 24 times, and the Heat took advantage and emerged from a sold-out AmericanAirlines Arena with a 110-104 win.
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The Mavs are now 5-4 on the season and 1-4 on the road. Their two-game road trip wraps up at 6 tonight in Orlando against the very young and athletic Magic.
Despite throwing the ball all over South Beach, the Mavs were still within three points of the two-time defending champs late in the game. But a potential game-tying 3-pointer by Monta Ellis missed its mark before Chris Bosh hit a pair of free throws, and then Ellis turned it over and LeBron James nailed two freebies to increase Miami’s lead to 106-99 with 46.7 seconds left.
Afterward, the Mavs were bemoaning those 24 turnovers that handcuffed them for the majority of the night.
“That’s their weapon,“ Shawn Marion said of the Heat’s ability to feast off turnovers. “You just basically fell right into their hands. You give them turnovers and the easy layups, and they’ve got a cakewalk. You take away the turnovers, and it’s our game.”
The Mavs started out as if this was going to be their night. With Dirk Nowitzki firing in three 3-pointers, Dallas jumped out to a 17-10 lead five minutes into the game. But with James cranking things up, the Heat battled back and got within 32-31 of the Mavs by the end of the first period.
“I thought it was a disappointing finish to the first quarter,” said Nowitzki, who popped in 28 points in 36 minutes. “I think we were hot. There was no way we should have been up one or down one at the end of the first quarter. We should have been better, and we should have been more solid defensively.”
The Mavs also should have protected the ball better. But too many lazy cross-court passes that led to breakaway dunks and layups helped the champs protect their home court.
“Too many turnovers in too many critical situations,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Really, it was going on the whole game — we just never quite got it totally under control. I thought we played three really good quarters, [but] the second quarter was not good. But the turnovers were our undoing.”
It helped Miami, too, that the Heat has James on its side. James poured in 39 points and was always there to settle his teammates down whenever the Mavs posed a legitimate threat to Miami, which led 60-51 at intermission.
James was 14 of 18 from the field, 10 of 11 from the free-throw line and tallied 21 of his points in the second half.
“He was hitting some really high difficulty shots that he’s probably the only guy in the game that can hit those shots,” Carlisle said. “But you’ve got to make him do it.”
Besides Nowitzki, Vince Carter had 21 points, Ellis scored 20 and Jose Calderon added 12. But those 24 turnovers, which led to 24 Heat points, cast a shadow on this night.
“We’ve got to be more patient and more focused on coming to the ball and stepping into passes and stuff like that,” Marion said. “It’s just one of those nights. If we don’t turn the ball over, we win.”