The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off of an ugly win against the Charlotte Hornets and are returning home to face the Dallas Mavericks. While the previous game was ugly, it was significant because they were able to feature Kevin Love as a primary scorer. They'll need to be clicking on all cylinders if they want a chance to defeat the Mavs.
Who: Dallas Mavericks (24-10) at Cleveland Cavaliers (19-14)
When: 1 pm Eastern
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland Ohio
Where on my eyeballs: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Enemy blog: Mavs Moneyball
The Mavericks come into the game sporting the best offense in the league in terms of efficiency. They bring a well balanced attack that runs almost exclusively off of read-and-react plays. They kill you with pick and rolls/ pops and tons of off ball movement. For a Cavs team that has struggled to play consistently on the defensive side of the floor, this will be a significant challenge.
The Cavaliers will need to rely heavily both on Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in order to remain competitive in this game. Irving has struggled in the last couple games to play at his high-efficiency, low-turnover level that we have seen for the bulk of this season. He does typically have an ability to elevate his game against elite competition, so if he can expose a shaky defense on the other side and make them work, it may help to limit the offensive output on the other side of the floor for Dallas. Love on the other hand, will be seeing plenty of time up against Dirk Nowitzki.
While Dirk won't punish Love on the inside, he's one of the most unstoppable offensive weapons the league has ever seen. He sped up his release in the offseason to make his signature jumpshot even more terrifying. But what Dirk does have is the same defensive deficiencies that we see from Kevin Love. Love should be able to make Dirk work as hard, if not harder by taking it to him in the high and low post and making him run around all night. The Mavs initiate the bulk of their offense either through their point guard (who is now Rajon Rondo) and through Dirk. If Irving and Love can make those guys expend their energy on the defensive end, the Cavs might be able to slow down the Mavs offense.
This game will have special meaning for Shawn Marion as well, as it will be the first time that he has faced his former club. Marion won a title with the Mavericks and was a beloved player within the franchise. I'm sure he'll play with extra motivation today, I just hope that doesn't mean going shot crazy.
The final key match-up will be between Tyson Chandler and Tristan Thompson. Thompson has continued his breakout season by elevating his game in the starting lineup. But he will face a tough test against the physical Tyson Chandler. Chandler has the ability to take over the game on either end by swallowing up rebounds and destroying the rim on pick and roll dunks. Chandler's style of play is one that Thompson should emulate, but today it's all about keeping him off the boards and limiting the amount of shots he gets at the rim.
Fear The Sword's Fearless Prediction!
I think the Cavs will be able to hang around for most of the game, but the Mavs just have too much firepower to handle. Cavs lose 110-102.