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3 steps to beating the Cleveland Cavaliers

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Tonight the Mavericks head to Cleveland to face the reigning NBA champs and the best team in the Eastern Conference.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Dallas Mavericks Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Just one game after facing the league-leading Los Angeles Clippers, the Mavericks head to Cleveland to take on the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are fresh off a win over the Trail Blazers in which Kevin Love set the NBA record for points in a first quarter with 34, just three points shy of Klay Thompson’s record for points in a quarter.

The Mavericks (at times) looked a little better than expected against the Clippers, but didn’t get the luck they needed to pull off an upset. Odds are, they won’t tonight, either. But while the Mavs probably need a lot more than three steps to beat this team, there are three reasons to feel like things could be looking up for Dallas.

Shooting is getting better

The Mavericks have had one of the worst offenses in the league this season, and nothing exemplified the team’s struggles better than Wesley Matthews’ terrible, no-good shooting. But over the last few games, he (and the team) have slowly started to pull out of their slump.

Matthews took the team on his back during a bad stretch and sank three three-pointers (the only ones he took during the game), continuing a good shooting streak that started against the Knicks nearly two weeks ago. Since that game, he’s shot over 46 percent from deep, and while there have been some ups and downs, he’s been performing well consistently from game to game. With the exception of an off night against Memphis, where he shot just two of seven, he’s had 40 percent or better in each game.

This isn’t just true of Matthews, though. The team as a whole shot almost 46 percent from three against the Clippers and 45 percent overall, both better than their season averages. They shot more efficiently, scoring more points in total while taking fewer shots from three than they have previously (24 compared to their season average of 29) and just two additional shots overall.

It’s always dangerous to read too much into one or even a few games, but it’s heartening to see Matthews and the Mavericks as a whole headed in right direction, even if it hasn’t yet resulted in more wins.

Dirk is back

Dirk is back! He didn’t look great in the 20 minutes he played against the Clippers (he shot just three of 10), but hopefully he’ll be able to get back into shape as he gets more time on the floor. It’s a good reminder that even if this team won’t be good this year, Mavericks basketball will be more fun to watch as players return from injury. Things won’t be quite this bleak all season (in the meantime, you can listen to Tim Cato and Austin Ngaruiya talk with a Sixers blogger about how to enjoy basketball even when your team isn’t winning).

Even good teams lose sometimes

This is your regular Mavericks preview reminder that the NBA regular season is long and even good teams sometimes lose to less good teams. The Cavalier’s second loss this season was against the 7-9 Indiana Pacers. Perhaps their third will be against the Dallas Mavericks.

How to watch

Tonight’s game tips off at 6:30 Central and can be seen on Fox Sports Southwest or on NBA League Pass outside of the Dallas area.