The Dallas Mavericks are a playoff quality team in the Western Conference, so there’s no real shame in losing to them. The Cavs did compete for much of the game, but the team’s defense just couldn’t hang against the Mavericks’ offense. Cleveland at least fought, the Mavericks just got whatever they wanted. Final score: Mavs 131, Cavs 111.
NEGATIVE: Not having Luka Doncic
I like Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Cedi Osman and other parts of the Cavs’ young core. There is a lot of potential in the group and there are definitely players who should continue to get better. Throwing Dylan Windler into the mix once he’s good to return should only make things more interesting.
But in watching Doncic pick apart the Cavs and post a 29-point, 15-assist, 14-rebound triple-double fresh off of his duel with LeBron James, you remember that the Cavs are probably still looking for their lead guy. Doncic is the guy you draft and he immediately elevates you towards playoff contention. That player does not exist on the Cavs, barring an unforeseen leap from Sexton or Garland or whomever. Roster building is just different when you get that caliber of star. Cleveland, of course, had it once with LeBron.
POSITIVE: Good nights for Kevin Love and Jordan Clarkson
To start with Love, he continues to play at a really high level (at least on offense) so far this season. Against Dallas, he finished with 29 points, eight rebounds and two assists. He also started the game with a 16-point fourth quarter and was dueling with Doncic for a moment. That level of play did not sustain the rest of the way, but Love continues to really make his presence felt. That’s a huge, huge win for a group that really needs Love to be at his best as the young guys learn as they go.
As for Clarkson, this was about as efficient as he’ll be. In 22 minutes, he was 6-11 from the field for 17 points. Most notably, this was not a Clarkson mid-range fest. Instead, he took 10 three-pointers — making five — and made his one shot at the rim.
NEGATIVE: Defensive letdowns over and over again
The Mavericks’ shot chart from Sunday says it all about their 20-point win over the Cavs:
Aside from Boban and Dwight Powell, every single Maverick made at least one three-pointer. Doncic hit five, Kristaps Porzingis (who had six blocks and really controlled the paint for parts of the game) made four and Seth Curry added three. Far too often, these were wide-open, easy looks where the Cavs’ defense just wasn’t in place to defend the shot. Some of that is personnel — Kevin Porter Jr. defended Doncic for parts of this game for crying out loud — but some of it is has to be scheme. Cleveland chose to help off ball and was forced to recover quickly onto shooters who were waiting to fire. A scheme as precise at Rick Carlisle’s is going exploit that weakness, particularly against a group like the Cavs.