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The Mavericks punished Kevin Love to secure a crucial road win against the Cavaliers

Dallas roared to take the lead in the third, behind a strategy of isolating Kevin Love’s hesitant perimeter defense

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

A very fun part about watching the Luka Doncic experience is how methodical he can be when dissecting a defense. Doncic’s evolution into a three-level scorer over the past four years has meant he seemingly has a counter to every situation, so long as his teammates are up for it.

That was never more evident in the third quarter in Wednesday night’s Mavericks win against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Dallas trailed 67-61 at the start, outscored Cleveland 39-22 and rode that lead throughout the fourth quarter to a somewhat comfortable victory. Doncic was dominant, of course, but it was Dorian Finney-Smith and the Mavericks insistence on attacking the Cavs’ weakest link that proved pivotal in turning the tide of the game.

Finney-Smith finished with a career-high 28 points and six made three pointers — three of those coming in the third quarter alone, where Finney-Smith scored 11 points that were overshadowed by Doncic’s masterful 20 point frame.

All of Finney-Smith’s three pointers came in a four minute stretch from the six minute mark of the quarter down to just under the two minute mark. Seconds before Finney-Smith made his first three pointer, the Mavericks were trailing 83-82. When Finney-Smith made his final three pointer of the quarter with 1:45 left in the quarter, Dallas led 97-89. Cleveland would never get it to a one possession game for the rest of the night.

How Finney-Smith was freed up was quite simple: the Mavericks ruthlessly attacked Cavaliers’ veteran big Kevin Love. Love isn’t ancient at 33, but he’s clearly on the tailwind of his career. He had no interest in closing out to Mavericks three point shooters and Dallas took advantage.

The second three wasn’t necessarily Love’s fault, but again the Mavericks made sure to involve him in the play to scatter the Cavaliers’ defense.

Cleveland was clearly missing its defensive big dynamo of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, as Love had to play perhaps more than needed. Love played only six minutes and 25 seconds in the third quarter and the Cavaliers were a minus-12 in those minutes. Having fun with a tremendously small sample size, the Cavaliers gave up 150 points per 100 possessions in Love’s short stint in the third quarter.

This only happens if the Mavericks can make the Cavs pay off Doncic’s attention and thankfully Finney-Smith had a career night. Before Wednesday’s game, Finney-Smith was 7-of-24 in his last three games from three. He almost matched that number in 37 minutes against Cleveland. Another example of Dallas finding ways to win in this scorching hot second half of the season.