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Mavericks vs Cavaliers Recap: 3 things from Mavericks collapse in 113-110 loss

Dallas got a taste of its own medicine

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks suffered an embarrassing loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at home Wednesday night, dropping a 113-110 heartbreaker.

Dallas had a 20 point lead and controlled the game from opening tip until midway through the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers took an early 7-6 lead in the first quarter, and then didn’t lead again until they took the lead for good with two minutes on a Caris LeVert three pointer.

The Mavericks started the game strong by attacking the Cavaliers in the paint and in transition. Cleveland coughed the ball up a bunch in the first three quarters and the Mavericks made them pay. Luka Doncic had 20 points in the first quarter, finishing with a game-high 39.

Despite the Mavericks dominance in the paint, the game was never in true blowout territory thanks to three point shooting from both teams. Dallas made only 10-of-37 from three, while Cleveland made 17-of-43. The Cavaliers stayed connected in the third quarter thanks to their shooting.

The Mavericks started the fourth quarter with Doncic on the bench and actually outscored the Cavaliers by one point in those six minutes. Then Doncic returned after a timeout and Cleveland slowly chipped away at a nine point lead until the LeVert three put them up 107-105 with two minutes to play. From there the Cavaliers defense continued to grind down the Mavericks listless clutch offense, an unfortunate throwback to how the Mavericks lost dozens of games last season.

Despite the sloppy play to end the game, the Mavericks still had a chance with eight seconds and down three left thanks to two missed free throws from the Cavaliers. Unfortunately the Mavericks demons from last season reappeared again, as Dallas failed to get a good shot off with Seth Curry’s three point attempt getting block at the buzzer.

This was a truly catastrophic loss not only for blowing the big lead, but because Dallas has to go to Minnesota and play tomorrow on the second night of a back-to-back. Yeesh.

Here are the major points from the game.

The Mavericks got a taste of their own medicine

Dallas has won a lot of games and kept blowouts from looking like blowouts the last two seasons thanks to some terrific three point shooting. Even when the Mavericks were bad last season, they rarely lost by double-digits, simply because they almost always made more three pointers than their opponent.

That trend has continued this season, except now the Mavericks are doing other things to help them actually win games now. Unfortunately that trend reversed itself in a rather violent way Wednesday night — the Mavericks couldn’t put the Cavaliers away and ended up losing the game thanks to the Cavs making seven more three pointers.

Rarely do you see this Mavericks team get outplayed from the three point line so thoroughly. That 21-point gap in a three point game is really the beginning and end of discussing this game broadly. The late game stuff really stinks, but if the Mavericks had simply made their open threes at their normal rate in the first three quarters, the lead would have been too big for the Cavaliers to rally from. Instead Cleveland kept the game within that 10-13 point range for most of the second half, and then finally pounced in the final minutes.

The ghost of Christmas past haunted the Mavericks in crunch time

Dallas notably played a ton of clutch games last season and just as notably lost a bunch — they were 26-29 in the clutch last season. This season, entering tonight, the Mavericks had turned that trend around with a 10-2 record in clutch games.

That all went out the window in the fourth quarter on Wednesday night. Dallas got to 105 points with six minutes left and didn’t score again until there was one minute left in the game. In that time, the Cavaliers went on a 15-0 run, taking a lead they would never give back up.

All the trappings from last season were on fully display — role players missing open shots Doncic created for them, Doncic looking uncharacteristically sloppy, an opponent dominating the offensive glass, and a lack of cohesive play-calling down the stretch.

The play-calling will be what gets talked about a lot, since the final possession was a disaster. With the Mavericks down three with eight seconds left, Dallas inbounded the ball to Doncic, who then got trapped at the top of the three point line before hastily shoveling it to Seth Curry who had his three point shot blocked at the buzzer.

How were the Cavaliers able to double so brazenly in a game-deciding moment? Well as I mentioned early on twitter, the Mavericks coaching staff decided to leave rookie center Dereck Lively in the game. Jarrett Allen was then able to double without consequence, as Lively just sorta stood inside the three point line while the Mavericks possession detonated.

Dallas needed a three, so putting a complete non-shooter out there only allowed Cleveland a free pass to double the ball aggressively. To make matters worst, it didn’t even seem like there was a plan for Lively — he didn’t free up Doncic with a screen and then didn’t really do anything after the ball was passed in. If the Mavericks had a plan for Lively, say screening for a shooter off ball once Doncic was doubled, so Cleveland had no ability to switch the screen and therefore maybe a shooter could get open, then that would make sense. Instead the Mavericks looked like last season’s Mavericks, where the only last possession plan is to throw it to Doncic and pray.

Lively looked like a rookie

Sometimes it’s easy to forget Dereck Lively is a 19-year-old rookie starting at center. He’s been so good and the Mavericks have been winning his minutes big time, with Lively’s quick development one of the major storylines for the Mavericks this season.

There was no forgetting Lively was a teenaged rookie on Wednesday, unfortunately. Lively got big boy’d by the Cavaliers All-Star center Jarrett Allen, who had a monster game — 24 points, 23 rebounds, six assists, and two steals. Allen had more offensive rebounds (nine) than the Mavericks had as a team (seven). In total, the Cavaliers had a staggering 18 offensive rebounds, with those second chances mainly leading to made three pointers, keeping Cleveland in the game when the Mavericks kept threatening to bust the game wide open.

Lively had as many rebounds as he did fouls (four) and just didn’t have the same impact he’s had in previous games. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this performance, rookies are certainly allowed to struggle, especially one in Lively that has been almost perfect for most of the season. It was just an unfortunate reminder that yes, he’s still a rookie. These games will happen and hopefully, he can learn from them.