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3 things to watch as the Dallas Mavericks play the Cleveland Cavaliers

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The first of a two game home-and-home series vs Cleveland

Dallas Mavericks v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks (38-28) gladly welcome the Cleveland Cavaliers (21-45) and their 8-game losing streak (losing 18 of their last 22 games - sheeeeesh) into town Friday night. This is the first of their two game home-and-home series vs Cleveland. After Dallas’ Thursday night national TV battle vs one of the top teams in the NBA, a gritty 113-109 win over the Brooklyn Nets, the schedule looks mighty tasty to end the season strong and attempt to increase their chances of landing the 5-seed in the Western Conference.

Dallas has only one team in their last six games of the season with a record above .500. If you’ve been paying attention this season you know, unfortunately, that doesn't necessarily mean good fortune for this Dallas Mavericks team. But a two-game series vs Cleveland feels a bit more promising. Here are three things to watch for:

Bad first quarter starts vs bad teams

If you’ve been following this Mavericks team you know that they strangely have a much better record vs teams above .500 (22-15) compared to teams below .500 (16-13). Dallas is 8-3 in their last eleven games, with wins over the Nets, Heat, Warriors and Lakers, but three losses to the Sacramento Kings and a 40-point heroic effort from Tim Hardaway Jr. to beat the Pistons.

The reason for that seems to be low energy out the gate, giving confidence to teams in which they feel like they should beat. How does this team come out against a lifeless Cleveland team on the second night of a back-to-back after a gritty win vs Brooklyn the night before? Watch for Dallas to give a concerted effort to not dig a huge hole from the jump. Why? Well here is who they are playing...

Current State of the Cavaliers

Cleveland is losing... a lot. They have been eliminated from play-in tourney contention and will most likely be spending the final two weeks of the season striving to get the best pick odds possible for the 2021 NBA draft.

Darius Garland has been ruled out due to an ankle sprain. Garland has been awesome this season averaging 17.7 points, 6.2 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. He’s proved to be capable of leading an NBA offense and handles most of the playmaking for this Cavaliers team. We know Collin Sexton can score, but Garland seems to have grown into the leader of their offense and his absence will be missed heavily vs Dallas.

How much does Kevin Love care to play at this point in the season? In Cleveland’s last game, Kevin Love was a minus-45 in 26 minutes of play. A few games before that he had an epic on-court meltdown that merited an apology. A few games before that, he had ZERO shot attempts in 22 minutes of play. Cleveland is in a bad place, Dallas needs to take advantage.

Cleveland Cavaliers Probable Starting 5: Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Isaac Okoro, Kevin Love and Jarrett Allen.

Kristaps Porzingis Update

Coach Rick Carlisle met with the media pre-Nets game Thursday afternoon and gave an update on the health of Kristaps Porzingis. Carlisle said he expects Porzingis “to play regular-season games at some point” but doesn’t know exactly when. KP has missed seven of the last eight games and for a self-proclaimed “rhythm player” you wonder how many of the Mavs’ remaining six games he’ll need to play to get that rhythm back before the playoffs.

As of right now, Carlisle said Porzingis is doubtful for Friday’s home game against Cleveland, “just my opinion based on kind of what I’ve gathered in the last 24 hours. But he is making progress.”

How to watch

Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Central. You can watch locally on Bally Sports Southwest or via NBA League Pass elsewhere.