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Mavericks vs Cavaliers Preview: Three things to watch as Dallas and Cleveland tussle

Our headband is better than yours

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers (17-13, 8-6 away) face off with the Dallas Mavericks (18-12, 8-6 home) on Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center. The visiting Cavs are riding high after a 109-95 road win over the Chicago Bulls marking their 4th win in 5 games. The Mavs are fresh off Luka Doncic dropping a lump of coal on the Phoenix Suns in a Christmas Day game that will live in the hearts and minds of Dallas fans for years to come.

50 points, 15 assists, and a deep 3 from Tempe that pushed Doncic over 10,000 points for his career - marking the fastest to that mark since someone named Michael Jordan. The Mavericks look to keep the good times rolling at home in this one.

Headband Luka

It is easy to take greatness for granted once it is established as an expectation. That’s the mental trap I have been aiming to stay out of when it comes to watching Luka Doncic play basketball. We are witnessing apex alpha output from the league’s most dangerous player and MVP contender. Since donning the headband versus the Utah Jazz on December 6th, Doncic is averaging an astonishing 37.4 points per game. Shame on me for shorting #77 an assist:

Doncic is listed as a game-time decision against Cleveland. I should not need to tell you this will be a very different game if Luka is unable to go.

Two injury-plagued teams facing off

You won’t see star players Evan Mobley and Darius Garland suit up for Cleveland. Donovan Mitchell - who is listed as a game-time decision - will have an even higher usage rate than normal. A player to watch is rookie guard Craig Porter Jr. Elevated to the rotation amid injuries, the last three games have seen Porter shine as a scorer and playmaker. His time as a Shocker at Wichita State probably merited a selection in the draft so Cleveland signing him as an undrafted free agent was a slick move that is paying off sooner than expected.

The Good Vibes Are Back

What a difference a year makes. Gone (ok, mostly gone) are the uncomfortable and cagey post-game pressers from a certain head coach. Gone are the canned answers by players to uncomfortable but relevant-at-the-time questions about why the team was underperforming. What has replaced all that negative energy from just a few months ago are moments of levity and wide smiles.

As you watch the clip below of Lively II and Jones Jr, ponder how close the Mavs came to losing their draft pick along with the cold reality that seemingly any NBA team could have signed DJJ before the Mavs did for a small two-year deal. The timeline has brightened in Maverick land.

Where to Watch

Catch the Cavs and Mavs on Bally Sports Southwest at 7:30 pm.