The Miami Heat begin a six-game trip that starts with Tuesday's game against the Indiana Pacers. The remainder of the stretch features five West Coast games in eight days.
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Dwyane Wade playing as a willing facilitator? He still has plenty of point guard in him.
Ah, Christmas time in Dallas.
For the Miami Heat there seemingly is nothing quite like it.
A year after using a season-opening Christmas Day blowout of the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center as the takeoff point for the franchise's second championship, the Heat warmed up for the holiday season with a 110-95 dismantling Thursday night of the franchise that defeated them in the 2011 NBA Finals.
That of course was when Dirk Nowitzki was healthy, and not a spectator from the bench, as he was Thursday, yet to play following preseason knee surgery. And that was still when Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood wore Mavericks colors.
Thursday? Just O.J. Mayo missing jumpers, Chris Kaman failing to grab rebounds and Dahntay Jones doing little of anything until garbage time. Yes, they're all Mavericks.
"It was good to see us play to our identity," coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Heat's defensive effort that limited the Mavericks to .385 shooting and Mayo to 3-of-14 inaccuracy. "The starting group set the tone for us.
"We've developed a little more consistency. Now you're seeing a little bit more of a consistent 48 minutes."
While the Mavericks reload, the Heat loaded up Thursday.
With his 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting, which came with the entire fourth quarter off, James has now scored 20 or more in all 23 of the Heat's games, the NBA's longest such season-opening streak since Karl Malone opened 1989-90 with 24 consecutive 20-point games for the Utah Jazz.
James also extended his franchise record for 20-point games to 27 dating to last season, still 20 games off the longest such streak of his career.
"I'm just very comfortable, very confident in my ability," James said. "We wanted to come out tonight and dominate and play at a high level."
Early on, Wade patiently played facilitator, with six first-half assists, before rounding out his effort with 19 points and five rebounds, given the fourth quarter off for a second consecutive game. The Heat outscored the Mavericks by 40 points with Wade on the court, tying the highest plus-minus in Wade's 10 seasons.
"When I get the opportunity, I'm making plays," Wade said. "I'm just playing within the game. My job is to do a little of everything right now."
Factor in 17 points and seven rebounds from center Chris Bosh and this couldn't have been much easier for a team that entered 4-4, having been humiliated in its previous road game, a loss to the league-worst Washington Wizards.
"We just became a little bit stale at home," Spoelstra said. "We did want to take on that challenge of being on the road."
This one never was in jeopardy, the Heat pushing to a 14-point lead in the first quarter, a 16-point edge in the second and a 91-61 lead going into the fourth.
"They were playing us tough all night," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "They were making tough shots when we weren't. Then we have more poor breakdowns as the game went on."
Next up is a Saturday home game against the Utah Jazz, followed by Tuesday's Christmas Day NBA Finals rematch with the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder.
It used to be that the Heat simply couldn't win in Dallas during the regular season. But then there was last December's Christmas romp in the house that Mark Cuban built.
And then there was this.
Until Thursday, the Heat's largest lead this season had been 35, in a Dec. 15 rout of the Wizards. Thursday the lead reached 36 in the third quarter.
And it wasn't just James, Wade and Bosh. It was Shane Battier loading up on 3-pointers on the way to 12 points, Ray Allen finding other ways to score, Udonis Haslem hitting the glass and a jumper, Joel Anthony anchoring the second unit with his defense and rebounding.
"This has been building for more than just the last few games," Spoelstra said of a team getting back to its defensive identity. "It's been building over the last few weeks."
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