After a very positive five-game road trip, the Cavaliers started their opportunity-ridden five-game home stand with a disappointing performance on Monday. Despite a furious second-half rally, they couldn’t quite get close enough and lost 102-97 to the Dallas Mavericks.
Somehow, miraculously, after two missed Dallas free throws, the Cavs trailed by just three points with 2.8 seconds left. But for the second time this season – although not Earl Clark’s fault this time – the Cavs failed to inbound the basketball following a timeout. Jarrett Jack could not complete the pass above Mavs center Brandan Wright. The five-second violation sent Twitter into a meltdown and ended the game.
But the Mavericks absolutely dominated the first half. Considering how terrible the bench played, really, the Cavaliers didn’t deserve a victory on Monday. They played with much more tenacity in the final 24 minutes. But it was too little, too late. Again. Let’s get into the numbers.
21 – Total points off turnovers for Dallas. Most came in the first half where starting guards Monta Ellis (22 points) and Jose Calderon (11 points) dominated in transition. They’re two fantastic scorers. The Mavs lead the NBA in steals per game – one of the many stats Austin Carr smartly shared beforehand today – so this shouldn’t have been surprising. The Cavs just often were careless with the basketball on their way to 15 total turnovers. The Mavs only had eight.
38-16 in 14:20 – That was the run for Dallas to end the first half, practically putting the game out of reach at 59-37. (Yes, that means it was tied 21-21 at one point late in the first period.) What was worse: the lazy offense or defense? WFNY’s Scott Sargent got some great responses back to his question of things worse than the Cavs offense. Overall, it was just a dreadful performance. After the Portland game, I talked about the Cavs’ streakiness and unfortunate propensity to give up big runs. That killed them again tonight.
7:13 – With that much time remaining, Dallas committed their fourth foul of the fourth quarter, a shooting foul. That meant the Cavs would be shooting free throws for the rest of the game. They went just 2-for-6 on their ensuing three trips, but converted two offensive rebounds into dunks. That run – scoring six points the hard way in three trips to the line – set the tone for a wild finish. But in total, they’d miss six crucial free throws in the final frame. That hurt them late, again, despite the dominant 33-15 second-half rebounding advantage.
16 – Third-quarter points for Kyrie Irving, three shy of his career high for a period. Down the stretch, that made the game actually interesting as opposed to the sleep-inducing blowout in the first half. In the third, he managed to carve the deficit to just 10 points with another one of his trademark impossible makes. He finished with 26 points, albeit on 27 shots. The nine assists were impressive. Maybe changing away from the NBA’s purple shoes made the difference?
29-2 – The bench scoring advantage for the Mavericks through three quarters. Earl Clark was the awful bench’s worst performer. In the first half alone, he had a -13 plus-minus in just six minutes with four missed shots and two personal fouls. The only points at all came on a Jarrett Jack floater. The Cavs bench started 1-for-12 from the field. Sticking with the starters helped them make their second-half run. Dion Waiters had 0 points in 17 minutes, the first scoreless performance of his NBA career.
+19 – Dirk Nowitzki’s plus-minus in 35 minutes. Considering how he didn’t exactly dominate – only a relatively inefficient game of 17-10 on 20 shots – that’s peculiar. But it again shows the runs that Dallas had at various points. Irving, Thompson and Varejao all had +10 marks or better.
5-for-5 – Both Shawn Marion and DeJuan Blair1 were perfect on each of their five shot attempts in the first half. Marion, the veteran with the odd shooting stroke, had 14 points in 18 first-half minutes. He couldn’t miss from anywhere, from threes or from mid-range. Blair, the bruising former Pitt star who fell on Draft Day 2009 because of knee concerns, scored 11 points with two offensive rebounds in seven minutes. He absolutely dominated Tyler Zeller in the post.
10.5-15.0-5.2 –Averages for Anderson Varejao in his last six games, all since Luol Deng played his first game. He had a dominant 18-21-4 line on just 12 shots tonight. He’s been playing at an elite All-Star level of late. Tristan Thompson also added 19-10 on 11 shots. Deng, in his Cleveland debut as a Cavalier, had 20 points on eight shots. Those three were fantastic in the second half and, because of Irving’s scoring spree, won’t get the publicity they deserve.
0 – Minutes for Anthony Bennett in the last four games. He last played 9 minutes in the awful blowout in Sacramento. He played less than a minute in a double-digit victory over Utah in the game before that, the Cavs’ first with Deng. If Bennett isn’t playing at all, he should be in the D-League in Canton. No question. Carrick Felix and Segey Karasev have managed to get regular NBA practice time with occasional trips to start for the Charge. Bennett should also be doing that. Now.
As a final note, go check out the video of Cavs players reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It’s very much worth your time.
Jacob Rosen is a long-time contributor to WaitingForNextYear. He's also a writer online at SportsAnalyticsBlog and Nylon Calculus . An Akron native, Jacob is a current MBA student at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. You can follow him on Twitter @WFNYJacob or e-mail him at udjrosen(at)gmail(dot)com.