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Heat Vs. Mavericks: Miami Begins Quest For Title Against Defending Champion Dallas

The Miami Heat begin the lockout-shortened NBA season against the team that defeated them in last year's NBA Finals, the Dallas Mavericks. The Heat travel to Dallas on Christmas Day, looking to start their quest for this year's championship by putting a damper on the Mavericks' title-raising holiday home opener.

The Miami trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris bosh were unable to deliver a title to South Beach in their first season together, falling in six game to Dallas. The Heat lost only Mike Bibby in the offseason, but added Shane Battier and Eddy Curry to a team expected to once again be in the Finals.

Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks suffered much more of a shake-up, especially for a defending champ. Gone are defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler and spark-plug point guard J.J. Barea, replaced by versatile forward Lamar Odom and veteran scorer Vince Carter.

The Christmas Day battle will be an opportunity for the Heat to show a national television audience they have moved on from last year's Finals breakdown, and a chance for the new-look Mavericks to prove they should still be considered in the conversation of the league's best teams.

For more on these two teams leading up to their big rematch, head to Mavs Moneyball and visit Heat blog Peninsula Is Mightier. For news and notes from around the league, be sure to follow SB Nation's NBA hub.

Photographs by cstreet.us, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.