Mavs 104-95: New Looks, First Impressions

The Mavs didn't get healthy in Cleveland, exactly. But for one night, it feels like they found an elixir. We break it down in our First Impressions of Mavs 104, Cavs 95:

* Apparently, all the shorthanded Mavs needed to set aside their injury woes and quash their three-game losing streak was a trip to Cleveland.

There was a clear ebb and flow to this game: the Mavs, playing without Dirk Nowtizki or Caron Butler, would push the lead to the area of 15, the Cavs would narrow the gap and Dallas would respond by rebuilding the lead.

Encouragingly, though: The Cavs made their pushes, but Dallas was always ready to shove back.

*The Week in Step-Up Guys:

First it was Caron Butler with 30, followed by JJ Barea with 29. Sunday night, it was DeShawn Stevenson's turn as he put up a season-high 21 points.

Only, there was one huge difference … Stevenson arrived, and help followed with him.

Joining Stevenson in setting a new season-high in points were Shawn Marion with 22 and Dominique Jones with 9.

This wasn't one or two players waiting for support, it was a team-wide effort … with all five starters scoring in double digits.

*We'll begin with "Soulja Boy," as Stevenson was once not so affectionately referred to by LeBron James, who hit a career-high five 3-pointers.

Although he would finish 5-of-12 from behind the arc for the game, he got hot and hit the shots when they were needed most, assuring the memory of a three-game slump that saw him go 2-of-12 from deep would become just that … a memory.

In a strange turn of events, on the broadcast you could also occasionally hear a small smatter of cheers for the former LeBron foe from the now Anti-LeBron Cleveland crowd -- quite a change from his former receptions.

One other note on Stevenson's performance: Sitting at opposite ends of the plus/minus spectrum were DeShawn (+25) and Mo Williams (-21).

*Shawn Marion returned from a one-game absence (thigh contusion), stepped into the starting forward role and promptly reminded us all that he can still fill that role with strength in this league. He led the Mavs in scoring with a season-high 22 points on 11-of-16 field-goal attempts, including 10 in the final quarter.

"As teammates we got it done. You know, we help each other out." Marion said after the game.

Sunday night, they did get it done.

*Next up in this team attack was Jason Terry.

As big as the absence of Dirk Nowitzki, Marion (last game) and Caron Butler had been the lack of production from Jason Terry, who sho t 19-percent over the last two games.

Jet found the muscle memory to spread his wings and take flight by shooting 8-of-14 including 2-of-4 from three, and total 18 points.

*Tyson Chandler was another who "stepped up" his game to help ease the loss of those missing with a big double-double, 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Things got a little physical late in the game when Ryan Hollins once again displayed an emotional immaturity, or perhaps a lingering bit of resentment after Dallas chose not to resign him, chaining him to the doldrums of basketball irrelevance in Minnesota and now Cleveland.

Yet, Chandler and Brian Cardinal were able to match the Cavs desperation level of physicality, combine it with intelligence, and prevail.

*The final starter, and fifth Mav to finish in double-digit scoring, was Jason Kidd.

Though his shot wasn't falling -- he was 3-of-13 -- Kidd found other ways to contribute … as he generally does.

Beyond his 10 points were eight assists, four rebounds, two steals and a block.

*It would appear some time with Nancy Lieberman was exactly what was needed, as this was not the same Dominique Jones that Dallas sent to their D-League affiliate, the Legends.

In his first game back with the Mavs, he was assertive and had the appearance of a player who belonged in the NBA.

If you go solely by the stats, you're unlikely to accurately assess his performance. DoJo went 2-of-10 from the floor, a shooting performance that would bring jeers to most, but his play stretched far beyond those numbers.

His aggression was controlled and fit within the flow of the game, and the court vision we caught glimpses of in the Summer League and for moments early this season was on display.

The numbers may not support the claim, but if you had a chance to employ the eye test, you likely approved of what Jones had to show.

He finished with nine points, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks (including an impressive rejection of the 7-footer Hollins) and a steal in 21 minutes.

*Nine Mavs saw the court, and nine came away with at least one made basket.

*For the first time all season, the Mavs allowed an opponent to shoot over 50-percent. Cleveland hit 41 of their 81 shots, or 50.6-percent.

Is it possible Dirk Nowitzki, who missed his fourth consecutive game with a knee strain, impacts this defense more than most would assume?

Over the four games he has missed, Dallas opponents have gone 147-of-303 shots, or 48.5-percent … compare that to 43.4-percent opponents shot in the 29 games prior to Dirk's absence.

We're not saying the Mavs battled one of the best teams in the league, or even one of the good ones. However, after losing three straight games, these Mavs (playing without Dirk or Caron Butler) were in desperate need of a win. Who that win came against isn't nearly as important as the result itself.

Right now, a positive – any positive – is welcome.

In our Saturday despair, we said the Mavs needed to begin to prove they were a good team all over again. This is nothing less than the first step in that process.

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