CLEVELAND — The wins keep piling up for the Dallas Mavericks while the Cleveland Cavaliers are drowning in injuries.
Already playing without superstar forward LeBron James, the Cavaliers are now without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, who left Sunday’s 109-90 loss to the Mavericks with a tight lower back and will not play Monday when Cleveland plays at the Philadelphia 76ers.
Irving left in the third quarter with tightness in his lower back after shooting just 2-for-9 and struggling to move around the floor. He did not travel with the team Sunday night and instead will remain in Cleveland for treatment on his lower back.
“It was tight in the fourth quarter of the Charlotte game, then I fell on it, which made it 10 times worse,” Irving said. “It’s just painful right now, but we just have to get through it.”
Irving has never dealt with back problems before and said the issue is completely unrelated to the left knee injury he has been battling for weeks.
“It sucks because you have two injuries at one time,” he said. “You try your best to get through it, but sometimes your body is just telling you when to stop. This is the time right now.”
Guard Monta Ellis scored 20 points to fuel the Mavericks’ fifth straight win. The Mavericks took the lead for good late in the first quarter and were never challenged. They pushed the lead to 20 late in the third quarter and both teams played reserves for much of the fourth.
Forward Dirk Nowitzki scored 15 points, center Tyson Chandler had 14 points and eight rebounds and forward Chandler Parsons had 14 points for the Mavericks. The Mavs improved to 6-2 since
acquiring guard Rajon Rondo, who had eight assists along with four points and four rebounds.
Dallas shot 56 percent and recorded 30 assists while never really struggling to get a good look.
“Thirty is a great number for any game. It was a harder game than the score indicated,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “They’re down bodies … so we had to take advantage of it. But they battled us all night long.”
The Mavericks improved to 10-0 against the Eastern Conference, including 2-0 on this trip which concludes Monday at the Brooklyn Nets.
“We wanted all the games on this trip, so I think that’s how we approached it,” Nowitzki said. “In my career, we’ve lost numerous games where the best player on the other team was out. I think we were all focused.”
Forward Kevin Love scored a season-high 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who are 1-4 this season without James.
The Cavs have lost five of their last seven while the injuries pile up, but general manager David Griffin emphatically insisted before the game that head coach David Blatt’s future is safe and his job security was never in question.
“This is exactly what we said it’s going to be: It’s a work in progress,” Griffin said. “We’re going to continue to get better every day.”
Reserve forward Shawn Marion, who only recently returned from a sprained ankle, scored 13 points off the bench against his former team. Guard Matthew Dellavedova scored 10 points and center Tristan Thompson grabbed 11 rebounds for the Cavs, who have struggled defensively since the loss of Anderson Varejao for the season to a torn Achilles.
Griffin admitted again Sunday the team continues to shop for a rim protector to stabilize the defense, which allowed an opponent to shoot better than 50 percent for the second time in four games.
“We didn’t play the defense we needed to play against any team and certainly not Dallas,” Blatt said. “At the end of the day, they scored their average, but I thought it was too easy.”