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4 things we learned from the Mavs' close loss to the Cavs, 110-107

Mavs led for most of the game, but couldn't grind out the win in the end.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This game ended up being pretty insane. I feel like that picture of Parsons perfectly encapsulates this one. The Mavs led the East's best team for three quarters, then everything got tense in the fourth. I really felt like Dallas would find a way to pull out the win, because this team is cray cray. They'll go to overtime against the Nets and the Cavs. But ultimately, LeBron was too much, and the Cavs came from behind to grind out a hard-fought win over your Mavs in overtime. But there was some good from this game.

Chandler Parsons was good tonight

Not quite good enough, in the end, but overall I am loving what I'm seeing from him lately. Now before you all get angry with me, all I'm saying is that other than that one putback on that insanely awful overtime possession, Parsons kinda disappeared for a while during crunch time. He can't do it all, but I would have liked to have seen him show up big when the team needed him. And LeBron did most of his damage in the fourth and OT. Though I'm not really sure what Parsons was supposed to do there.

Overall, Parsons really looked like Dallas's second star tonight. He had 25 points and 8 rebounds, both season highs. He started the game 4 for 5 and was clearly the best player on the court in the first half. And that pass fake early in the third! Did you guys see that? He also had that huge alley oop dunk off the inbounds later on in the third to extend Dallas's lead. Just a whole lot of quality play from a guy who is still slowly getting fully healthy.

Zaza is everything

Zaza got his 100th career double-double tonight. It was his 20th of the season. I can't say enough about how consistently solid this guy is, in just about every aspect of the game. He finished the game with 14 points and 12 rebounds. For most of the game, he was everywhere, doing all the little things. There were times when it felt like he was the only Mav getting rebounds. The team just looks better when he's in the game.

Which is why I'm pretty baffled by the fact that he didn't play in overtime. At all. Far be it for me to question Rick Carlisle's strategy, but I am really curious to know what his rationale was here. The small ball lineup was feisty until the last couple of minutes in OT, then the wheels kinda fell off. I feel like maybe Zaza could have clogged up the paint a little more and kept Bron and Kyrie from making a few of those easy layups. At the very least, I would've liked to have seen him try.

The Mavs starting lineup is quality

Speaking of double-doubles, Deron Williams and Dirk Nowitzki also had pretty good games. D-Will had 16 points and 10 assists. He also was the Mavs driving force in the clutch, as has become a common theme this season. My favorite play of the game was when the D-Will/Dirk pick and roll got Thompson to switch onto D-Will, who then dribbled a bit then drove past Thompson for a gorgeous layup to take a two-point lead with under 30 seconds left. While things didn't end the way we wanted, that was an insanely fun play. Deron has been a treat this year.

Then there's that dude. Dirk had a very up and down game, but he finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. He was a big part of the end of the game in good and bad ways. He had a couple of turnovers late in the 4th quarter, which was honestly really bizarre. Dirk has always been an extremely reliable crunch-time guy, so it was confusing to see him hurt his team late. Dirk could have won the game in regulation, backing down Iman Shumpert with the game all but over. But then Shumpert knocked the ball from the big German's hand (yeah, I thought it was a foul too)--leading to overtime.

However, Dirk also had a great cross-court pass out of a double team that led to an open Wes corner three late in the fourth. He also hit a huge three to take a lead (and the momentum at the time) early in the overtime period. Unfortunately, Dirk just can't do anything on defense anymore, and that bit the Mavs in the ass with that small ball lineup in overtime.

But hey, let's not forget that this starting lineup jumped all over Cleveland to start the game. These guys jumped out to a 23-7 lead, and that was just terribly exciting. Dirk and Parsons started the game shooting 7 for 9. It was tons of fun there for a while, against probably a much more talented team.

Is there such a thing as a moral victory?

Dallas is such a weird team. They'll go to overtime against the Nets, the Kings, and the Cavs. They'll get crushed by the Heat but dominate the Warriors. It feels like this is a really smart team, with an unbelievable coach and a fantastic starting unit. The bench is still a huge work in progress. I'm still really happy to see what this team can become.

Ultimately, an inability to get defensive rebounds without Zaza on the floor combined with some very aggressive play by LeBron late in the game to cost Dallas the win tonight. James looked every bit the NBA's best player when the game was on the line. No shame in losing this one.

Unfortunately, the Mavs have to go to Oklahoma City tomorrow, which probably means a schedule loss. But hey, like I said, this team is crazy. Would anyone be that surprised if the Mavs found some way to upset the Thunder in the most unexpected way possible? I wouldn't.