At one point during his interview session with the media following Monday morning’s shootaround at American Airlines Center, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle had a grim look on his face.
And it had nothing to do with the mix-up from Sunday night’s Oscar ceremonies.
Carlisle looked grim because the Mavericks (23-35) were getting ready to host the Miami Heat (27-32) at the American Airlines Center Monday night. Carlisle’s level of concern his risen because the Heat have been the best team in the NBA over the past 18 games, and have shown no signs of slowing down.
“This is the hottest team in basketball,” Carlisle said. “These guys have won 16 out of 18 games going back to right around the time we played them last.
“They’ve made a remarkable turnaround and (Heat coach) Erik (Spoelstra) has done an amazing job. Now they’re five games sunder .500 and they’re in the ninth spot (in the Eastern Conference), and when we were preparing for them they were (12-30).”
That was on Jan. 19, when the Heat clipped the Mavericks 99-95 in Miami.
The Heat keep opponents off balance because they can use so many different weapons. Miami has eight players averaging at least 10 points per game. The scoring balance has been a nightmare for opponents to defend.
Heat center Hassan Whiteside averages 16.6 points, leads the NBA in rebounding (14.1) and is fourth in blocks (2.06). Guards Goran Dragic (20.3 points, 42.1 percent from 3-point land) and Dion Waiters (16.1 points, 39.1 percent from behind the 3-point arc) have been consistent this season.
“They have taken the players that are available and gotten in and conceptually put together one of the best ball movement drive and kicking teams that I’ve seen in 33 years in this league,” Carlisle said. “They’ve got Whiteside on the inside rebounding and rolling and posting up.
“Dragic and Waiters are both playing at an All-Star level, and their role players are knocking down shots. We better have happy feet tonight on defense or we’re going to be in trouble.”
In the Heat’s turnaround, they beat the Houston Rockets at home and on the road. They also handed the Golden State Warriors one of their nine losses (105-102) this season.
“These guys are a big problem,” Carlisle said. “They’ve made an amazing turnaround.
“Erik has thrust himself in the conversation for coach of the year, without question. These guys are legit.”