MIAMI -- Last the Dallas Mavericks saw of the Super Friends, they were gripped by an evil spell that if not solved soon threatened to destroy the greatest free-agent alliance in history.
After the Mavs pummeled the Miami Heat that night to drop them to a confounding 9-8, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh closed the locker room doors and met with their little buddies in secret. The next day, the press ran wild with stories of acts of possibly betrayal against their young coach Erik Spoelstra.
What's happened since could change basketball as we know it.
"In the last three weeks not only have they been unbeatable, they’ve been almost untouchable," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "They’re winning by ridiculous, unprecedented margins on a consistent basis. It’s three great players and a group of role players that complement those three guys well with 3-point shooting, rebounding, activity on the offensive boards. So, it’s a terrific challenge."
The Mavs take their talents and 21-5 record to South Beach for the final of two regular-season meetings Monday night. They have the task of ending Miami's 12-game win streak, which is tied with the Mavs' recently completed streak and one behind the Boston Celtics for longest of the season.
"Obviously, their chemistry after that meeting has been tight," Mavs guard Jason Terry said. "They run a lot more and they’re making more shots. These guys are shooting the 3-pointer at a high level right now."
They're doing everything at a high level. During the 12-game win streak, Miami has won 10 times by 10 points or more, including the first nine, and five games by 20 or more. James and Wade have their swagger back, both are dominating hopeless defenders and as a unit they're pushing the tempo, unlike in their first 17 games.
"They’re playing to their strengths now," Mavs center Tyson Chandler said. "They’re such an athletic team with LeBron, Wade, Bosh, even the guard play. It just baffled you that they were walking the ball up the floor and playing slow, and now they’re getting out in transition. LeBron is looking like he's more comfortable. Dwyane looks like he has his legs under him and they look like a totally different team."
Carlisle said it's not surprising that Miami got its act together, but it is a bit disconcerting just how powerful they have shown to be during the winning streak. They've averaged 101.9 points while allowing just 84.1 for a mind-blowing differential of 15.3.
"It was only a matter of time before they figured things out and they certainly have done that since we played them," Carlisle said. "Not only are they a great team, they’re doing unprecedented things statistically. They’re No. 1 in almost every offensive and defensive stat. The adjustments that they’ve made have been fruitful."
They're not quite No. 1 in every category, but his point is well taken. Miami tops the league in point differential (9.76), field-goal percentage defense (42.4), 3-point field-goal percentage defense (30.4) and they're second in defensive scoring (91.2) and 3-point shooting (47.6 percent). They're 11th in scoring at 101.0 points a game.
The Big 3 is averaging two-thirds of those points. James is averaging 24.5 points, Wade is close behind at 23.6 and Bosh is averaging 18.2.
"I said it when we played them the first time, they really they had no preseason," Dirk Nowitzki said. "Wade was out the whole preseason and I think it just took them a while to get used to each other. They’ve been scoring off each other, all of them are scoring over 20 (during the streak) and that’s when they’re tough to beat when all of them have it going like that."
Still searching for a weakness? Try the free throw line. They rank 17th (75.6 percent).