What Spoelstra could share with certainty, however, was the impact Nowitzki has had on the Dallas Mavericks and their opponents since his Dec. 23 return from arthroscopic knee surgery.
“I see him change how everybody plays them,” Spoelstra said. “It’s the Dirk Nowitzki Effect on their offense. As a defense, you absolutely overreact to every situation he’s in -- or even that he’s not in -- and then you lose all sight of your team defensive rules.”
Nowitzki played just 17 minutes in the win at Washington on Tuesday night, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle pointed out, so there might be some leeway to increase the former league MVP’s court time against the Heat.
The flow of the game would be a factor, Carlisle said, citing a “fine line” when it comes to his star’s minutes and helping Nowitzki regain his conditioning and rhythm on the fly.
“The problem is we just haven’t had a lot of practice time,” Carlisle said, “so he’s had to get re-involved via the games. It’s a little bit different kind of challenge.”
Even with Nowitzki averaging just 20.8 minutes and shooting 39 percent from the field, his impact is felt throughout the lineup, the Heat coach said.
“As soon as he comes in, you see that whole effect come in,” Spoelstra said. “It’s fascinating to see, and he’s earned that respect, that overreaction by defenses. He’s obviously working his way back into rhythm. Hopefully it doesn’t fully come back tonight.”
Having had to work Dwyane Wade and other key pieces back into the mix over the years, Spoelstra also expressed admiration for the “discipline” Carlisle has shown in his using Nowitzki as judiciously as possible.
“They have an obvious plan with Nowitzki,” Spoelstra said, “and it’s a big-picture plan.”
Carlisle also said Mavericks forward-center Brandan Wright (strained left quadriceps) would miss his second straight game.