What has Cleveland done lately?
The Cavaliers have lost their last four games. In those games, against the Suns, Pelicans, Knicks, and Rockets, the Cavs have mustered just 89.25 points per game. They have allowed 105.5 points. That accounts for a more than 16 point scoring margin. That isn't good and it's far worse than their season averages.
On the season, Cleveland averages 95.8 points per game while allowing 101.7 points. A more than six point drop in scoring while allowing almost four more points per game is not going to get anything accomplished.
It doesn't help that Anderson Varejao was out for the last three games. However, his offensive contributions are limited and his rebounding efforts alone could not make up such a large point differential.
One of the main ills of their offense has been their poor shooting. In these four games, the Cavs shot a combined 40 percent from the floor. That simply isn't going to get it done.
What are the Cavaliers' biggest strength and weakness?
As a city, Cleveland does an astonishing job with their river catching on fire. Catching water on fire is no simple feat. Not only that, but they mastered the ten cent beer night action back in 1974. As a basketball team, though, Cleveland doesn't really do much of anything well. However, their one bright spot is offensive rebounding, thanks, in part, to the aforementioned Varejao.
The Cavs have the fourth most offensive rebounds in the league and collect 27.1 percent of the available offensive boards. Of course we all know the old adage: good offensive rebounding teams are poor shooting teams. With Cleveland, that is certainly true.
The Cavaliers are shooting 42.3 percent on field goals this season. That ranks them second to last. This low number stems from the amount of low efficiency shots the team insists on hoisting up. The Cavs have taken more shots from midrange this season than they have from within the restricted area. They are shooting just 38.6 percent on their midrange jumpers. Not only that but 31.8 percent of all of their shots come from midrange and 20 percent of their shots come from 16 to 24 feet.
So, yeah, an essential element of the game, scoring, in this case, is one of the Cavaleirs' biggest weaknesses.
What stat, player or fact might surprise you about Cleveland?
I don't usually have the opportunity to combine all three categories of this question into my answer. Luckily, the Cavs have just the player to talk about.
Player: Anthony Bennett
Fact: Drafted first overall by the Cavaliers in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Stat (line): 2.8 points, .275 FG%, 2.5 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.2 blocks, 0.9 turnovers.
Those are his per game numbers. His per 36 minute numbers are better but other than his rebounding they are really nothing to be encouraged by. Much has been made about Bennett's lackluster performance since he was selected number one in the draft. He simply hasn't produced consistently unless his continued poor performances count as consistency. (Technically, I suppose they do.) What is shocking, though, is that he hasn't spent any time in the D-League. Bennett isn't seeing much playing time in Cleveland, just 11.2 minutes per game, so there really isn't any good reason not to send him down to get minutes and develop.
It is probably too early to toss the word "bust" out there. However, he is already drawing comparisons to Kwame Brown. Brown spent years in the league as a serviceable, if not average, player. Right now, Bennett would be lucky to have a career like Brown's.
What do the Mavs need to do to be successful against the Cavs?
Hold on to their butts. Seemingly everything is pointing to a Mavs victory. However, this is the Mavericks and gut reactions to this game will return mixed results. Kyrie Irving, the Cavs' best player, could shred the Mavs' backcourt. Shawn Marion is still questionable for the game (at the time of this writing) and his presence would be invaluable in defending the likes of Uncle Drew.
Beyond that, this game has every element of a "trap game." Dallas travels to Memphis on Wednesday to take on the resurgent Grizzlies who are 7-1 since Marc Gasol's return. It would be easy for the Mavs' to overlook the woeful Cavs and turn their attention to the team that is nipping at their heels.
The Mavericks just need to go out and perform well. Their offense has been clicking and the Cavs have been sputtering. Dallas needs to put them in a tailspin. Of course, that is easier said than done with this team.