TO 0-5: The Mavs dropped yet another preseason game on Monday night, falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-97 behind a balanced Cleveland attack that saw six Cavs finished with double figures in scoring (with LeBron sitting out resting). Cleveland celebrated its first preseason win. Dallas has yet to do so, and yes, we know it's only preseason, but tasting some sort of success, in any form, would be a nice change right now.
“It’s disappointing that we lost, but I thought again the guys at the end really hung in and worked hard to give us a chance,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.
And that -- along with Dirk Nowitzki and John Jenkins -- is about as good as it's going to get right now.
Nowitzki made his second preseason appearence on Monday night against the Cavs and looked to be in regular season form. After scoring 10 points in the first half, Dirk finished the night shooting five of nine from the field en route to a 13-point performance.
"Watching Dirk and Chandler and Wes and Deron, that's going to be money right there,'' Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. "That's a helluva top four."
Imagining Dirk as this club's fourth-best player (something Cuban is suggesting but we're not quite buying) seems promising. But those other three guys are ghosts right now. And in this game, Zaza Pachulia and J.J. Barea both took the night off, so the Mavs turned to Salah Mejri and Raymond Felton to fill in. And while we can say both Felton and Mejri played very in their absence, the "Felton and Mejri'' combo isn't anymore comforting than the 0-5 is.
TO THE POINT: Raymond Felton has been surprisingly solid this preseason, and that trend continued on Monday night. Felton led the Mavs offense in the absence of JJ Barea and (once again) Deron Williams, finishing with eight points and seven helpers. Felton will have to help hold the offense together until the Mavs ‘big guns’ return the lineup. ... and Carlisle is on-record as saying Dallas is keeping all four of these point guards, so good for Felton for keeping it professional around here ...
But "bad'' for Deron Williams. A calf injury will likely hold him out for the remainder of the preseason. Williams talked all offseason about staying injury-free and about getting a fresh start, about "pressing the re-set button,'' about his self-confidence being shaken a bit.
Right now? How can we argue that any of that has changed for the better?
DWIGHT'S DEBUT: Dwight Powell made his preseason debut and had a pretty nice outing (11 points and seven boards in the starting lineup.) The best-case scenario for the Mavs this season has Powell being a rotation big man for them this season. (Powell and Felton showed some chemistry tonight when on the floor together, with Felton finding Dwight for a couple of alley-oops in the lane.)
“It felt good to get back out there,” Powell told Mavs.com. “It felt good to contribute. I mean, it’s been a while since I played in a live-action game, so it was good to be able to kind of get some stuff done.”
They are going to need all the helpful stuff they can get in the frontcourt. ... and how can we say that based on the Cleveland game?
Read on to meet somebody named "Jack Cooley.''
SALAH SHOULDERS: Salah Mejri had another solid game for the Mavs as well on Monday night, finishing with six points and eight boards in 18 minutes. Mejri is head and shoulders above the other young bigs such as Jarrid Famous and Brandon Ashley, and you can tell the Mavs coaching staff likes his game a lot. There is a polish and a maturity there; he's not your typical rookie, at at age 29, maybe shouldn't be.
Don’t be surprised if Mejri makes this team and gets some minutes, though we can imagine the Mavs would love to put some weight on him. (Again, maybe at 29, he is what he is. But what he is, is, thin.) Despite his thinner frame, he battled with the Cavs bigs all night on the boards.
You can envision him being ahead of Sam Dalembert on the depth chart now ... and you can envision JaVale McGee getting healthier ... which means you can envision Sam Dalembert not making this team.
PRESEASON MVP: John Jenkins continues to impress and had yet another stellar outing for Dallas against Cleveland. Jenkins scored 26 points including 14 of 16 from the line, while also helping to run the offense. We all know Rick Carlisle likes guards that can score, and when he has run the point he has been able to do exactly that.
We really don't think "stellar'' is too strong, by the way. Dallas is asking the former Hawk to do so many things here ... and he's doing them -- including taking blame for the loss.
“Every game we’re right there, and I’m disappointed in myself how I didn’t lead the team in the fourth quarter,'' he said. "I felt like I could have done a way better job of getting guys involved and getting some type of flow in the fourth quarter. We kept it close, but I felt like it was my fault. I had some bonehead turnovers at the end and was just not being decisive. I can’t do that.”
Jenkins shot Dallas back into the game late, but is disappointed in himself because he missed shots and committed turnovers (the Mavs had 18 of them) that might've made a difference.
But overall, this is all positive for John Jenkins. And Dallas can use all the positives it can collect.
J1FLIGHT: If you’ve ever wondered what happened to Mavs first -ound bust Jared Cunningham, he is fighting for a roster spot with the Cavs right now. And contributing to Cleveland's first preseason win (they're 1-6) with plays like this ...
ABOUT THOSE GHOSTS: Wes Matthews was seen coaching up the Mavs young players on the sidelines during the third quarter, and that’s a really good thing. Matthews hasn’t played a single minute for the Mavs yet but he is already all in. As we've talked about in our stories about Matthews' ‘basketball soul,'' he is going to be instrumental in the Mavs team chemistry this season. The guy is a simply leader through and through.
And maybe his recovery seems to be ahead of schedule, as he was cleared for contact last week as we noted here. But the Mavs are going to need Wes, D-Will and Parsons back ASAP to avoid falling into a big hole to start the season. ... and with all due respect to Tony Cubes, we're going to actually need to see it on the floor before we start bursting with pride about it.
EVANS ALL-AROUND: Jeremy Evans had his best game as a Maverick to date this preseason. He was very active on the defensive end, hit a couple of threes, and got himself in good positions for the playmakers to get him the ball. Evans finished with 12 points, six rebounds, and had blocked shot.
NOT DEVIN'S FAULT?: Even when Devin Harris struggles to shoot the basketball he still finds ways to contribute. Harris, who only shot 11-percent from the field on the night, also finished the game with five rebounds and five assists. Harris was finding his teammates in open spots all night, but the Mavs simply weren’t cashing in on most of those opportunities.
THE NATURE OF PRESEASON: Defense is remains a major issue with this team, as they just looked confused and out of place for a good bit of the game. At the risk of being redundant, getting guys healthy should help to fix that issue, but more help will be needed in the long run.
At the same time, you've probably got to find J.R. Smith. Maybe you find him and let him shoot bad shots. But you find him.
Sometimes, J.R. Smith just goes all J.R. Smith and makes everything. This was seemingly one of those nights. The Mavs perimeter defense wasn’t very good, but whatever. Sometimes he just can’t be stopped. Smith had 19 points, including three three-pointers in the third quarter that busted the game open.
JUSTIN'S DEVELOPMENT: Justin Anderson had one of his better games so far as a Maverick in this one. He seems to be coming along nicely, but Rick and Co. need him to find his groove in a hurry. That "groove'' came into play in this game; after falling behind by double digits the Mavs young players found a way to get themselves back in the game. And he was one of those, a good sign moving forward but…
In the end Dallas gave up 40 points in the third quarter, lost the rebounding battle 51 to 45, and had 17 turnovers to the Cavaliers 10. You just can’t do those things and expect to win a basketball game in NBA. And the challenge is to avoid all those pitfalls while also readying a rookie to carry a too-large load.
THE DIRKIE: John Jenkins, again. All evidence points to Jenkins being a real contributor this season
BEST POSITION GROUP: The frontcourt. Dallas got good contributions from Evans, Powell, Mejri and Nowitzki on Monday night, something they would like to see more of moving forward.
THIS GAME WAS OVER WHEN: John Jenkins missed an open three with 19 seconds to go in the game. Cleveland went on the grab the rebound and ice the game at the line.
SHOULD'VE SEEN COMING: The Mavs were out rebounded once again on Monday night, including an inexplicable 15 by Jack Cooley.
So we saw the "being outrebounded'' coming. But ... Jack Cooley’s domination of the boards? No reason this guy should own the Mavs on the boards like he did. If the Mavs cant find an answer for a guy like that, it is absolutely frightening to think what guys like DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard are going to do. Yikes.
COULDN'T SEE COMING: Jared Cunningham, yes that Jared Cunningham, was the guy that put the Mavs away in the end, hitting two free throws and throwing down a dunk to end it in the fourth. That's usually LeBron's job, but ... preseason.
BEST DECISION: Continuing to run the offense through John Jenkins in the Preseason. Why not? He’s playing very well and is the best of the young players trying to make the roster. Besides, is there a better opton here right now? Maybe this will pay dividends down the road.
THE FINAL WORD: The Mavs won't practice today. They'll next be on the to face the Phoenix Suns at 7:30 on Wednesday at the AAC in their home preseason finale (we'll have you covered here and on Twitter at FishSports and on Twitter with Matt Galatzan) ... and yes, tasting some success would be nice.
“I thought we won the first half, and our guys hung in well at the end,” Carlisle said to close the Cleveland experience. “We’ve got to look at this kind of in separate parts. It’s not ideal right now, but it’s a process. And we’ve got two more games to keep improving conditioning and getting guys working on chemistry and things like that. And we’ll just keep working on it.”