The Cleveland Cavaliers (9-13) beat the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks (14-11) 91-88 Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Last July the Cleveland faithful were calling on Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks to pull out their first NBA championship in franchise history against the Cavaliers nemesis LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Saturday night was a different story.
Before the game Cavs coach Byron Scott called on Cleveland fans to forget about what happened in July and show the Mavericks some hostility. There wasn’t that much venom in the air Saturday night as there was during James’ two visits back home, but the Q was in fact loud.
Scoring 15 points and already trailing by nine, it looked like as if the Cavaliers were going to have another one of their classic losses; blowing up in one quarter and only playing three good quarters of hard basketball. This wasn’t the case this time. The Cavs went into the locker room trailing by eight, but the defense had something in store in the second quarter.
Anderson Varejao, who collected a game-high 17 rebounds (10 offensive and seven defensive), pushed the Cavaliers to get physical on the defensive side. Cleveland forced Dallas to turn over the ball 21 times. Usually it’s the Cavs who lose the turnover battle, but they only coughed it up nine times. Cleveland also had 12 steals.
Keeping the Mavericks to 13 points in the third quarter, the Cavs tightened up in the fourth to secure a three-point victory.
Coming through in the clutch again was rookie sensation Kyrie Irving. Irving scored 20 points and added seven assists. It seems like the young star is proving himself after all. He is also shooting .500 on the season.
With Tristan Thompson and Daniel Gibson still out of the lineup it has been tough for the bench to score points. The bench added 20 points Saturday night, but most of those points came from the upstart sixth-man Alonzo Gee. Gee also collected four boards and had two steals.
What I think needs to be done is switching Gee’s position on the bench with Omri Casspi’s starting job. Casspi is not producing enough to be a starter. He’s averaging eight points a game and less than three rebounds. His stats show that he belongs on the bench.
Gee also played 30 minutes off the bench, one more minute than Casspi. Gee’s season stats, 9 points, 1.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game, show that he can score even more when he’s on the floor when the first whistle sounds. Casspi can be a great bench player and can help Cleveland close out games, but he just hasn’t proved himself to be an NBA starter.
Overall the Cavaliers put up a good performance against the Mavericks. Varejao is making me think twice about our need for a center each and every game. He is fourth in the league in rebound per game with 11.9. He definitely deserves a bench spot on the East All-Star team.
The Cavaliers will be facing off against the Miami Heat (18-6) Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.