The Cleveland Cavaliers began a five game home stand with a Martin Luther King Day matinee against the visiting Dallas Mavericks. This game was a tale of two halves for the Cavaliers as they fell behind 22 points to the Mavericks only to come back and make a game of it in the fourth quarter. The game got off to a quick start with both teams exchanging the lead early. The Mavs took control on offense while the Cavs settled for jumpers, allowing Dallas to lead 30-23 after one.
The second quarter was even worse as the Cavaliers constantly had their passes deflected leading to 13 points off turnovers for the Mavericks. DeJuan Blair and Shawn Marion dominated the game as each man finished off the first half shooting 5-5. The Mavericks also out rebounded the Cavaliers 24-14 in the first half and finished on a 38-16 run to lead 59-37 at the break.
The Cavs came out aggressively in the third quarter and began to attack the basket. Irving got hot and had 16 points on 6-9 shooting in the quarter. Varejao had six points and five rebounds, and Mike Brown rode the starters most of the quarter to outscore the Mavs 29-20 and pull within 13.
The Cavaliers started the fourth with a lineup of Jarrett Jack, Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles, Earl Clark and Tyler Zeller. Zeller was able to counteract Wright’s athleticism to some extent, but this group stopped attacking the basket and settled for jumpers gain. After just two minutes Thompson returned to the game. Irving and Varejao returned just 30 seconds later at the Cavaliers were down 17 until Varejao quickly converted an and one. The group of Varejao, Thompson, Jack, Waiters, and Irving then pulled the Cavaliers to within nine with 7:53 remaining. After the Cavaliers were able to get in the bonus fairly early, Tristan Thompson made multiple trips to the line. While he failed to convert several, Anderson Varejao was able to get every rebound imaginable. A Luol Deng three then pulled the Cavaliers within two. But Monta Ellis was able to get to the rim or line and convert. While the Cavaliers were able to keep it close, they could never quite catch the Mavericks. After an extremely frustrating turnover when the Cavaliers were unable to inbound the ball within five seconds (the second time this game in which they were unable to do so). The Mavericks left Quicken Loans Arena with a 102-97 victory.
PG Kyrie Irving – Irving started out slow shooting 3-10 in the first half for eight points. He did have five assists versus only one turnover. He did heat up in the third quarter when he had 16 points on 6-9 shooting. Unfortunately Irving cooled off again and was only 1-8 in the fourth quarter and finished with 26 points on 10-27 shooting.
SG C.J. Miles – Miles started out hot, hitting a pair of midrange jumpers off curls and displaying the same high level of activity he has for the last few weeks. After that he faded into the background and finished with six points on 2-6 shooting.
SF Luol Deng – Deng continued to shoot well early and had 11 points at the half. He was burnt by Shawn Marion throughout the game though and doesn’t seem to have the defense down yet. While Deng did have 20 points on 5-8 shooting, he had a critical down the stretch which led to a Shawn Marion layup, effectively sealing the game for the Mavericks.
PF Tristan Thompson – Thompson displayed great energy on offense although he continued to have trouble finishing. He was not a factor on the boards with only one rebound in the first half. In the second half, Thompson continued to keep his energy up and also began to clean up on the offensive glass. He finished with 19 points on 6-11 shooting and 10 rebounds, nine of which were on the offensive end.
C Anderson Varejao – A rough game for Varejao as he was unable to get untracked on offense, shooting 1-4 in the first half. He was also dominated by DeJuan Blair and Brandan Wright on defense. The second half was another story. Varejao was a force on the glass, seemingly collecting every rebound available and was instrumental in stopping the Mavericks offense. Finishing with 18 points and a whopping 21 rebounds, Varejao continued his strong play since returning to the starting lineup.
BENCH STAR: Jarrett Jack
It’s hard to pick a bench star for this game. The second unit struggled greatly and their play was a big reason the Cavaliers were down so much at the half. Because of this, the Cavaliers rode the starters so heavily, but Jarrett Jack was the one bench performer to have any impact on the game. Jack finished with six points on 2-4 shooting and was part of the Cavaliers’ crunch time lineup. Unfortunately Jack also had two critical turnovers, including a critical one at the end of the game when he tried to go coast to coast despite the Mavericks defense being ready for him.
Mike Brown thought one of the main reasons the Cavaliers struggled was the fact that the Mavericks scored 31 points off of 15 turnovers. He also discussed the struggles of the bench unit and the spark DeJuan Blair provided for Dallas. The five-second violation by the Cavaliers was supposed to be a three point attempt by Kyrie Irving on the weak side of the floor. Kyrie was wide open, but Jack was unable to see him. With the season at its halfway point, Brown feels the Cavaliers are getting better but are still learning how to win. While he is not happy with the team’s record he is happy with the direction they are going and gave credit to his players for not giving up when they could have and fighting to get back into the game.