Mavericks-Heat Preview

The Associated Press

LeBron James doesn't take too kindly to losing, especially on a grand stage.

The four-time league MVP will try to continue his strong play against the Dallas Mavericks as the Heat seek a fifth straight victory in this series Friday night.

Since losing the 2011 NBA Finals to the Mavericks, James has spurred the Heat to four victories in as many games, averaging 28.0 points and 10.0 rebounds while shooting 57.4 percent. Miami (5-3) has won those games by an average of 14.3 points, shooting 49.5 percent and scoring 110.0 points per game.

Miami has won four of its past five games, and is coming off a 118-95 victory on Tuesday night against the Bucks.

''It wasn't perfect,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ''There were still some areas we definitely need to improve on, in terms of the details and discipline. But at least the effort, the effort, the activity was better, the disposition right from the beginning and it carried through once we got into the rotation."

James played a season-low 30 minutes as he continues to battle a sore back but did take a season-high 21 shots as he finished with 33 points. Reserve Michael Beasley added 19 points as Miami (5-3) shot a season-best 58.2 percent.

"It means that my hard work is not going to vain,"said Beasley, who has scored 29 points his last two games. "I'm doing it to help my teammates because at the end of the day I don't want to let those guys down."

The Heat - the only team in the league shooting above 50.0 percent (52.5) - have scored at least 100 points in all eight of their games and are tied with the Mavericks among the league leaders in scoring at 106.8 per game.

In addition to its potent offense, Dallas (5-3) has seen improved its play on the defensive end recently, a major reason for their fast start to the season. The Mavericks are forcing 18.8 turnovers per game, third-most in the NBA, and using those extra offensive possessions to pull away from opponents.

"We're getting better each and every game," Mavericks reserve forward Vince Carter told the team's official website. "Our rotations are better. Our individual defense has been better. But just more than anything our help side and our team defense has been better, and it's fueled our offense."

Carter is one of eight Mavericks players averaging 8.1 points or more, and the balanced scoring output has been as important as the pressure defense in the Mavericks' winning ways. Veteran Dirk Nowitzki and free agent pickup Monta Ellis lead the way on the offensive end, with Ellis averaging a team-best 22.5 points and Nowitzki contributing 18.3 per game.

The Mavericks enter the matchup in Miami having won two straight, most recently defeating the Wizards 105-95 on Tuesday night in Dallas. Nowitzki passed Jerry West for 16th on the NBA's all-time scoring list and has 25,197 points after netting 19 in the victory.

''Jerry is the man,'' said Nowitzki, who has averaged 23.7 points in 28 regular-season games versus Miami. ''He is the logo and that says it all. It has been a great ride.''

James shot 20 of 33 in the sweep of Dallas last season and finished one assist shy of a triple-double in Miami's 119-109 overtime victory Jan. 2 in the most recent meeting.

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