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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, December 20th (All times Eastern)

Miami Heat (16-6) at Dallas Mavericks (12-13), 9:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The defending champion Miami Heat hit the road for only the second time since Nov. 21 on Thursday night when they visit the Dallas Mavericks.

This is a rematch of the 2011 NBA Finals, won by the Mavericks, but the two teams have gone in opposite directions since Dallas won its first championship in franchise history.

The Heat, who bested the Mavs in the 2006 NBA Finals, won the title last season to finally realize the shared goal of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The Mavericks were swept in the first round last season by the eventual Western Conference Champions, the Oklahoma City Thunder. In fact, only two Mavericks remain from the squad that won the title two seasons ago, Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion.

Nowitzki is still out recovering from knee surgery, although should be back shortly after Christmas, but Marion, who became the 95th player in NBA history to score 16,000 points on Tuesday, will be in the lineup and probably tasked with trying to stop James.

On Tuesday, in a 103-92 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, James went off for 22 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and four blocked shots. Wade led the way with 24 points and Bosh added 15.

The Heat held the Wolves to 23.5 percent shooting from the 3-point line and Miami blocked 14 shots. But, in a somewhat alarming statistic, the Heat were outrebounded by 29.

"Rebounding helps, but there are a lot of other factors for rebounding," head coach Erik Spoelstra said. "If you go through the statistics in the playoffs and ranked them, that isn't necessarily the biggest key."

The Heat rank 29th in rebounding.

The Mavs aren't a great rebounding team either. In fact, their rebounding differential of minus-4.4 a night puts them dead last in the NBA.

Dallas snapped a three-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 107-100 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. O.J. Mayo paced the Mavericks with 26 points and eight assists and Chris Kaman chipped in 20 points and seven boards.

Point guard Derek Fisher will be out of Thursday's night contest. He fell awkwardly in the first quarter against the Sixers and didn't return. Results of his MRI aren't in yet.

The Mavs already were without Elton Brand (groin), but ended their losing streak thanks to a great fourth-quarter effort from Mayo and Kaman.

"It was really important," Mayo said of the victory. "Obviously we didn't have a great road trip, so for us to come back here at home, you know, we've got to protect our home court and get a win."

Brandon Wright is listed as day-to-day with a sprained right ankle.

The Heat swept last season's two regular-season games. That snapped a 14-game, regular-season winning streak the Mavs had over Miami.

Dallas, which is 6-0 at home against Eastern Conference foes, is 8-3 overall at American Airlines Center. The Heat are only 4-4 on the road and have dropped 10 of the last 12 in Big D.

12/20 10:27:19 ET