If the Miami Heat needed another reminder of how far they’ve fallen since winning the NBA championship in 2005-06, their next game is against a team that will be eager to help show them.
The Heat will try to avoid their first six-game losing streak in more than four years as they meet the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night at the site where they clinched the title
Miami hasn’t dropped six in a row since opening 2003-04 with seven straight defeats. That included a road loss to Dallas (21-11) in which the Mavericks shot 50.6 percent from the floor.
The Heat (8-24) are a shell of the team they were two seasons ago, now holding the Eastern Conference’s worst record. During their current skid, Miami has failed to top 85 points three times and opponents have shot 48.6 percent from the field.
“Right now the whole situation is not a situation that we are proud of,” Heat forward Udonis Haslem said.
Miami’s defense again faltered in a 103-98 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday that ended the Bucks’ nine-game road slide. The Heat scored 31 points in the fourth quarter, but allowed 32 as the Bucks shot 71 percent.
“We can’t guard ourselves right now,” Haslem said. “We’re probably going to end up playing zone the whole game (against Dallas), because we can’t guard anybody one-on-one. It’s how many games into the season, and we haven’t guarded anybody?”
The banged-up Heat have played the last three games without center Shaquille O’Neal (hip bursitis) and the last four minus point guard Jason Williams (sore knee). Dwyane Wade is also playing through finger and shoulder injuries.
The Heat also have lost four straight on the road, where they are 4-13 this season as they start a five-game road trip. Less than 19 months ago, Miami was celebrating its championship at the American Airlines Center after winning four straight games to overcome a 2-0 series deficit.
Wade had 36 points in the series-clinching 95-92 win.
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki had 29 points in that game, but struggled throughout much of the series, shooting 39.0 percent from the field and just 25.0 percent from 3-point range.
Nowitzki has already “exorcised some of his demons” this week, according to Dallas’ Jerry Stackhouse. In the Mavs’ last game, Nowitzki had 29 points in a 121-99 win over Golden State, which needed six games to eliminate top seed Dallas from the 2007 playoffs in the first round after a 67-15 regular season.
In that series, Nowitzki shot just 38.3 percent from the field, including a dismal 2-of-13 with just eight points in the elimination game. On Wednesday, he was 9-of-16 from the field and 3-of-4 from 3-point range.
“He just refused to allow them to double-team him,” Mavericks guard Jason Terry said. “This was definitely his best game of the year.”
Nowtizki is averaging 25.3 points over the last eight games, raising his season average to 21.9.
Dallas has won two straight and are 15-3 at home this season. The Mavericks also have won six straight regular-season matchups against the Heat since a 119-118 overtime loss in March 2004.