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How to watch Cleveland Cavaliers at Dallas Mavericks

The Cavs will look to keep their winning ways going against the Mavericks, sans Kyrie Irving.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Cleveland Cavaliers Aaron Josefczyk-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers (17-13) return from the Christmas hiatus to face the Dallas Mavericks (18-12) in a battle of injured teams. Cleveland is coming off an impressive road victory against the Chicago Bulls, spearheaded by undrafted rookie Craig Porter Jr. and Max Strus. Dallas is likewise fresh off a solid road win, though it came against the mighty (yet troubled) Phoenix Suns on Christmas Day - lead by a 50-point burger from Luka Doncic.

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs Dallas Mavericks

Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX

When: 8:30 p.m. EST

TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports Southwest

Spread: DAL -3.5

Expected Cavs Starting Lineup:

Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Max Strus, Dean Wade, Jarrett Allen

Cavs Injury Report: Donovan Mitchell (illness, QUESTIONABLE), Darius Garland (jaw, OUT) Evan Mobley (knee, OUT), Ricky Rubio (personal, OUT), Ty Jerome (ankle, OUT), Sam Merrill (wrist, DOUBTFUL), Caris LeVert (knee, QUESTIONABLE)

Expected Mavericks Starting Lineup:

Luka Doncic, Dante Exum, Tim Hardaway Jr., Derrick Jones, Jr., Dereck Lively

Mavericks Injury Report: Luka Doncic (quad, QUESTIONABLE), Tim Hardaway Jr. (illness, QUESTIONABLE), Kyrie Irving (foot, OUT), Josh Green (elbow, QUESTIONABLE), Maxi Kleber (toe, OUT), Greg Brown III (G League, OUT), Dexter Dennis (G League, OUT),

What to Watch For

Craig Porter Jr., superstar

Alright maybe Craig Porter Jr. isn't a superstar in the traditional sense, but there is no denying that the undrafted rookie from college powerhouse Wichita State continues to be a pivotal cog in the Cavs current (sputtering) machine. The 6’2” combo guard has been a breath of fresh air for a Cavs team that has been brought to its knees by instability at the guard position. Despite availability issues to Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Darius Garland, and Donovan Mitchell, “CPJ” has held up as a viable option at point guard.

Consider this: Porter Jr. has a similar usage rate to James Harden, a points-per-shot-attempt akin to Dejounte Murray, the ninth-best assist rate for combo guards per Cleaning the Glass, and the same turnover rate as NBA Twitter (X?) darling Derrick White. Porter has not only been a stabilizing force for the Cavaliers, but he has played quite well too. No, he isn't a great three-point shooter like point guards usually are, but he is solid from the mid range and gets to the rim at a very high rate (90th percentile for combo guards per Cleaning the Glass). CPJ does the little things well, as outline by Steph Noh from Sporting News:

One stat to watch for

Fast and to the point(s)

The Dallas Mavericks have the sevneth-best offense in the league, in no small part to having Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving in the backcourt. But Dallas plays a particularly quick brand of basketball on the offensive end. They are seventh in the league in pace (the Cavs are 22nd by comparison), second in three-point attempts per game, have the fifth-best effective field goal percentage, and commit the fewest turnovers per game. The Mavericks offense is difficult to stop, and now finally have some personnel to accentuate their killer backcourt.

But the offense is not perfect. Despite being one of the highest volume three-point shooting teams in the league, they are middle of the pack in three-point make percentage (14th). They’re also 27th in free throw percentage and very reliant on isolation offense, evidenced by being 25th in the league in assists per game. The gritty Cavs will have to try and slow down the pace of play to their liking, crash the glass (Dallas is one of the worst rebounding teams in the league), and hit their open shots if they want a chance to steal a game down South.