Heating up for playoffs? Miami hosts Mavericks

The Miami Heat are picking up the pace at the right time.

The streaking Heat aim for their fourth straight win and eighth in 10 games Tuesday night when they host the Dallas Mavericks.

Miami (35-30) was sitting at even .500 prior to the torrid stretch that has seen the team move into the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference, a game ahead of the Boston Celtics. That is a coveted placement, as the seventh through 10th place finishers will be part of the play-in round.

“We definitely want to be in the top six and not play in the seeding game,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said after Sunday’s 121-111 victory over the Hornets in Charlotte. “We need to fight every game because it’s important. It is the playoffs. The preparation is just different.”

Finishing in the top six would be a positive development in a season in which the Heat have been struggling to get back on track since a bad January stretch left them seven games below .500. A year after reaching the NBA Finals, they are finally five games over .500 for the first time this season.

“You want to be playing your best basketball at the right time and I’m praying, I’m hoping that right now is the right time for us to be playing our best basketball,” swingman Jimmy Butler said.

Dallas (36-28) understands Miami’s predicament as it faces its own battle down the stretch.

The Mavericks are competing with the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers for the fifth through seventh spots in the Western Conference. One of those teams will end up in the play-in round and Dallas doesn’t want that to be its fate.

The Mavericks will feel better down the stretch drive if big man Kristaps Porzingis (knee) can get healthy.

Porzingis has missed five of the past six games and is listed as doubtful for Tuesday. Guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (ankle) also sat out Sunday but is slated to play against the Heat.

“It’s eight games left,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “They’re all very meaningful. Hopefully we’ll get Tim back. We’ll see where KP is and we’ll head to Miami and look to play better.”

The Mavericks didn’t play well Sunday as they fell 111-99 to the visiting Sacramento Kings. Dallas went 0-3 against the Kings this season.

Composure was a problem as both Carlisle and star guard Luka Doncic were ejected for receiving two technical fouls, the second for each coming in the final minute after the outcome had been determined.

Doncic scored 30 points but was just 1 of 7 from 3-point range. Dallas was 6 of 35 from beyond the arc.

But perhaps most mystifying is figuring out why the Mavericks have such trouble with Sacramento. Dallas has been hot lately — except playing the Kings. Dallas is 6-3 since April 16, with all six losses coming to Sacramento.

“I guess it’s not a good matchup,” Doncic said. “But we got to move to the next one. We have bigger things ahead of us.”

Tuesday’s game is the first meeting between the Mavs and Heat since Dallas ended a six-game losing streak in the series on Jan. 1 with a 93-83 triumph.

Doncic recorded 27 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in that contest in Dallas, while Butler missed all six of his shots and scored just two points for the Heat.

Miami point guard Victor Oladipo (right knee) will miss his 14th consecutive game and shooting guard Tyler Herro (foot) will miss his sixth in a row. The Heat also might be without veteran swingman Andre Iguodala, who left Sunday’s game with a recurring hip problem and will be evaluated before the game.

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