The Cavs have a two-game winning streak! And while Kevin Love won’t play on Saturday, they do have a good shot getting a third straight win.
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
Where: Quicken Loans Arena — Cleveland, Ohio
Enemy Blog: Mavs Moneyball
TV: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Online: Fox Sports GO, NBA League Pass
Cavs status updates: Kevin Love (OUT - foot), John Henson (OUT - wrist), J.R. Smith (NWT). David Nwaba (QUESTIONABLE - ankle), Tristan Thompson (OUT - foot)
Mavericks status updates: JJ Barea (OUT - right Achilles surgery), Luka Doncic Luka Doncic (questionable - left ankle soreness), Kristaps Porzingis (NWT), Tim Hardaway Jr. (NWT), Courtney Lee (NWT), Trey Burke (NWT)
Three keys to the game
- How will the Cavs defend Luka Doncic? Assuming Doncic is active for Dallas, he’s obviously the player Cleveland has to be most aware of. He can score from anywhere, is already elite at manipulating defenses with his vision and feel and is an All-Star level player overall. Depending on who Dallas starts. and who Cleveland has available, it’ll be interesting to see who they turn to in an effort to slow Doncic. If Cedi Osman keeps guarding fours — and thus gets Harrison Barnes or Maxi Kleber — it might be Alec Burks’ job to mark Doncic. This would be a good game for David Nwaba to be back for.
- Can the Cavs score at the rim? For the year, the Mavericks’ defense is in the league’s upper half, although it’s not by much. Per Cleaning The Glass, they defend every spot on the floor well — except for the rim, where they are 26th in field goal percentage allowed. However, Dallas allows the seventh-fewest shots at the rim. So, what will give here? Will Ante Zizic do well against a Mavericks front court in flux? Can Larry Nance Jr. have a big night? And can the likes of Burks, Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman get to the rim and score with regularity?
- Coming into Saturday’s games, the Mavericks are 28th in turnover percentage, per nba.com/stats, and are 26th in turnovers per game. Scoring off turnovers is not a strength of this Cavs team, as sometimes it plays disjointed when it gets out on the break. But if the Cavs can make it one, they’ll have a better chance at getting a third straight win.
One question that can’t be answered until the game tips off is who will defend Collin Sexton. Perhaps Doncic will, and if so, it’ll be on Sexton to use his speed to try and make Doncic move his feet and keep up. If it’s Dorian Finney-Smith, a 6’8” wing, he’ll have to deal with the length of a much longer player. Doncic seems like the odds-on option, but regardless of who it is, it’ll be on Sexton to make the most of matchup that sees him at a size disadvantage.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Mavs come into this game with roster in flux due to the trade they made to acquire Kristaps Porzingis. The Cavs are also playing some of the best basketball the last few games, led by Cedi Osman turning into a 20 point per game scorer. So, Cleveland picks up a third straight win here, 104-101.
Update, 12:35 p.m., Feb. 2: This article was updated to reflect an update on David Nwaba’s schedule from TBD to questionable.