The Dallas Mavericks returned home to begin their toughest stretch of the season on Tuesday night against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. With a five-game slate featuring three division leaders and two second-place teams, with three of those on the road, the Mavs will likely not face another test like this all season long. ...
... And this thrilling test continued all the way into an extra period, with James powering the AAC visitors to a 110-107 win.
"Great game,'' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "I'm not mad, I'm disappointed. We were right there ... battled the whole way. ... we'll be OK.''
Needing to start things off on the right foot, the Mavs were more than "OK'' to start as looked to their big guns to help carry them into this gauntlet.
CP and The UberMan helped Dallas jump out to an early 16-point lead in the first quarter, combining for 17 points. The Mavs also got Cleveland into trouble by forcing bad shots and getting on out in transition on the other end, leading to a 23-17 lead. LeBron would then put his big boy pants on after a timeout and lead his team on a 15-0 run, and put the Cavs right back into the game.
From there, it was game on at the AAC in front of a star-studded crowd.
The first half ended with the Mavs on top of the defending Eastern Conference champions 52-47 thanks to a buzzer-beating fadeaway by Raymond Felton. It seemed as though every time the Mavs got something going and started to build a lead in the first half, though, the Cavs would come storming back. ... which made ending the first half with momentum in their favor and taking the lead into the locker room a big deal for Dallas going into the second half.
Or so we hoped at the time.
Parsons was on fire from the start, shooting 10-of-14 from the floor and scoring a season high 25 points. With Wes Matthews struggling from the field, the Mavs relied on Parsons versatility on the offensive end to try and cancel out LeBron’s 27 points on the other end.
As a team, the Mavs shot 49 percent from the floor, including 11 of 28 from three, while forcing the Cavs to shoot just 41 percent on the other end. Cleveland shot an outrageous 44 threes, hitting 38.6 percent. Dallas was also able to keep up with the Cavs on the boards thanks to Zaza Pachulia’s 12 rebounds, with Zaza putting his 100th career and 20th double-double of the season. But Dallas had some overall issues sticking with Cleveland on the boards ...
And as we'll discuss later in Mavs Donuts, had some late issues by going with SmallBall featuring Dirk at center in OT, an ill-fated decision that, paired with Wes Matthews maybe not being utilized fully as a late-game defender, deserves examination. Worth mentioning here: Wes' late-game offensive work ...
All of which took place after Cleveland took its first lead of the game, at which time the back-and-forth affair continued late into the fourth quarter, with both teams trading buckets in crunch time. After the Cavs forced a late turnover before a Dirk jump-shot attempt, regulation ended in a 95-95 tie, sending the game into overtime.
In the overtime period, Cleveland would ultimately put the dagger in the Mavs gut after a deep three from Kyrie Irving (set up by a bullish LeBron), putting the Cavs on top by four with just 13 seconds to go. LeBron would go on to ice the game at the line, giving the Cavs the win and dropping Dallas to 22-17.
James showed power at the rim with the ball ...
And without it, once illegally causing the Dallas rim to rattle but not getting whistled for it, as Mavs owner Mark Cuban notes:
This could be a season-defining stretch for the Mavs, and dropping this game obviously hurts. But with a "monster'' grouping of roadies against some of the best teams the NBA has to offer, Dallas can ill-afford to dwell on this loss.