Mavs Beat Cavs
via The Sports Xchange
DALLAS — Maybe LeBron James and Kyrie Irving should have just stayed back in Cleveland after all.
Wanting to build on the momentum of a Sunday win that ended both a three-game slide and a tumultuous week off the court, the Cleveland Cavaliers brought their two healthy stars on make the trip to Dallas and play on the second night of a back-to-back.
However, the Cavs were by far the more listless team Monday night, and they ultimately were blown out down the stretch by the hustling Dallas Mavericks, 104-97. While the final score appears close, Dallas opened a 15-point lead with about four minutes left.
For Dallas, the win completed a surprising two-night sweep of the San Antonio Spurs on the road and then the reigning NBA champions in front of a sellout crowd at the American Airlines Arena.
How did they do it? Mavs coach Rick Carlisle had an interesting way of describing his team: “We’re a (garbage) team, but we’re an underrated (garbage) team. That’s about as accurately as I can put it.”
Carlisle added: “I’m happy for the guys. With the things that we’ve gone through this year, to win two games like this just gives you energy.”
Meanwhile Cleveland, which played without forward Kevin Love, had no energy and dropped to 2-6 on the road against teams from the Western Conference.
Last week, James complained that he needs another playmaker on the squad and questioned the franchise’s commitment to winning. Asked if he believes a trade would be made before the deadline, James answered in a few short words: “If it happens, it happens. We’ve got what we got. We’ve got to get better every game.”
James led the Cavs with 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. He hit 9 of 19 shots from the floor. Irving added 18 points and five assists, but he committed six turnovers.
Cleveland (32-15) also had its struggles on the defensive end.
“The rotation, starting Richard Jefferson at the four was good for us, but then again, you can’t run all the sets that you are accustomed to running,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said about playing without Love. “The other thing is that it limits your rotation. Your rotation goes down, especially on a back-to-back, when the guys didn’t have it tonight, and we clearly didn’t have it.”
Overall, Cleveland was no match for a Mavs team that is suddenly finding a spark from a pair of young guards — Seth Curry and the newly signed Yogi Ferrell. They led an up-tempo attack that made the Cavs look a step slow all night.
Ferrell, who signed a 10-day contract on Saturday, finished with 19 points, including a big 3-pointer with 4:18 to go that gave the Mavs (18-30) an insurmountable 100-85 lead. He also had three assists, five rebounds and four steals.
Curry, who scored a career-high 24 points in the win at San Antonio on Sunday, had 16 points, four assists and five rebounds Monday.
Dallas forward Harrison Barnes contributed a game-high 24 points and 11 rebounds. Wesley Matthews had 21 points even though he was just 2 of 9 from beyond the arc. Dirk Nowitzki only got four shots but hit three of them, finishing with eight points and six rebounds.
The Mavs continued the momentum they gained in the second half Sunday with an up-tempo first half that included runs of 9-0 and 22-7, plus a 29-point second-quarter for a 55-50 lead at halftime.
They overcame horrendous 3-point shooting (9 of 32 on the night) with tenacity on defense and aggressive offense.
“We believe,” Matthews said. “We’re not going to stop believing until numerically it’s not a possibility (to make the playoffs). That’s not the case.”
Dallas stretched the lead to 81-70 after three quarters. Cleveland’s offense got stagnant and produced little movement to the basket. Relying on jumpers, the Cavs couldn’t muster the offense needed to keep up with Dallas. Channing Frye had 13 points, and Jordan McRae and Richard Jefferson were the only other Cavs players to score in double figures, finishing with 11 points each.
The Mavs got a strong contribution off the bench from forward Dwight Powell, who had 14 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes.