Final score: Mavs hold on(this time), beat Cavs, 102-97

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

22 points from Monta Ellis helped Dallas win on the road in Cleveland, though it required a nail-biter finish after what was nearly another huge blown lead.

If Yogi Berra was watching this game somewhere, he might have said "enough with this damn deja vu, already".

Dallas once again held a big league in the third quarter -- this time it was 22 -- and nearly let it slip away.

A 60-42 second half surge propelled Cleveland, who fed off 16 third quarter points from Kyrie Irving and what seemed like an endless number of offensive rebounds by Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao in the final frame.  In the end a costly(and somewhat rare) five second call on inbounder Jarrett Jack with just a few seconds left robbed the Cavs of a chance to tie it.

Leading the way for Dallas was Monta Ellis, who scored a team high 22 and dished out 8 assists.  Ellis will sleep easy thanks to the win, but two missed free throws late nearly proved disastrous.

Dirk Nowitzki appears to be on a bit of a mini-slump, as he went 8-20 and 0-5 from three, finishing with 17.  In his last five games he's shooting just 41% overall and 29% from three.

One can't be sure just how today's 1 PM Eastern start(and by the way, happy MLK day, everyone) may have affected the team.  Early on, it certainly didn't seem to be slowing the Mavs down.

Dallas built an early lead on a 17-2 run that ended the first quarter and began the second.  After the lead hovered around 14-15 for most of the second quarter, a 12-2 run to end the half stretched the lead to as high as 24.  Dallas was shooting 55% from the field and was capitalizing on Cleveland's turnovers by turning steals into easy transition points(15 first half points off TO's).

The intelligent basketball fan surely knows that in the NBA, every team makes  run.  The quality of talent at this level is simply too high to expect otherwise.  However, at a certain point, that explanation ceases to adequately cover what's going on with the Dallas Mavericks.

The Kyrie explosion in the third quarter helped the Cavs get to within 10, though the Mavs summoned enough offense to keep the margin 13 entering the final period.

In the fourth, Kyrie largely disappeared and Cleveland continued to struggle shooting from outside.  Yet, the lead still shrank, thanks to the Herculean efforts by Varejao and Thompson on the glass, who combined to collect a whopping 12 offensive boards.  There were long stretches where Dallas either didn't bother to box out, or did so fairly indifferently.

One play saw Dirk and Brandan Wright completely bail on defending an Anderson Varejao jumpshot, presumably to help rebound, but Tristan Thompson managed to elevate between three Mav defenders for an easy grab and putback.

Even plays as simple as free throw shooting -- where the rules are specifically designed to give the defense ideal rebounding position -- did not help Dallas, and on more than one occasion you could see Rick Carlisle lose his cool on the sideline.  DeJuan Blair also seemed frustrated, and he ended up fouling out.

All those fouls, by the way, helped put Cleveland in the penalty halfway through the quarter, and gifted 15 freebies to a team that had not demonstrated much in the way of consistent offense.

So, it was no small wonder that the Cavs managed to climb back into this one, creeping to within a single basket at 91-89 with a little over three minutes left.  I'd have been more upset had I not seen this movie already.  These games are like The Hangover 2 all over again, to paraphrase the aforementioned Mr. Berra.

Dirk Nowitzki, typically the team's closer, did not have it going today, so it was left to Monta Ellis to carry the load offensively.  Ellis put in 7 of the team's final 11 points, though he left three free throws on the floor that could have helped put the game away a little sooner.  Still, Dallas escaped victorious.

Some observations:

  • Samuel Dalembert got the start but had to leave the game early in t he third quarter with a shoulder injury.  Conventional wisdom would have you believe his presence might have helped Dallas on defense and on the glass.  As of now we have no further update on his condition or what his status is for upcoming games, but expect a post on this later.
  • Shawn Marion was apparently dealing with an upset stomach, though he hit his first six shots and finished 7/8 from the field with 18 points.
  • The bench was a mixed bad today.  Brandan Wright and Blair filled in decently enough for Dalembert, but Vince Carter, Shane Larkin and Devin Harris combined to go 3-19 from the field.
  • Varejao's 21 boards make him the sixth player Dallas has allowed to collect 18 or more rebounds since December 4th.

So, that's what I have to say.  But we're interested in you all.  What's your take on the Mavs right now?

Fear The Sword

Mavericks vs Cavaliers coverage

Final - 1.20.2014 1 2 3 4 Total
Dallas Mavericks 30 29 20 23 102
Cleveland Cavaliers 23 14 29 31 97

Complete Coverage >

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