The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night, winning Dallas 105-90 in the first meeting between the two teams this season.
Donovan Mitchell led all scorers with 34 points, including 25 in the first half. Every Cavalier starter has scored in double figures. Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with 30 points, five rebounds and six assists.
While the deficit hovered between 12 and 18 points for most of the game, the Mavericks were never really there. They started the first quarter in a terrible 16-2 hole and although they showed some spurts of life afterwards, they only got the game in the single digits once in the second half to about one possession.
Dallas clearly missed Maxi Kleber and Josh Green as the Mavericks’ energy level was anemic at times. Defensively, there were a ton of breakdowns near the basket that you can only imagine would have been cleaned up if Kleber and Green were available.
Unfortunately, the Mavericks are down to .500 and the schedule doesn’t stop, with games against Portland and Cleveland again before the weekend.
Here are our observations.
The lack of talent in this game was undeniable
Cleveland is one of the best teams in the league and their 18-11 record went unnoticed due to the quality of Boston and Milwaukee. But the Cavs are good. Very well.
The disparity in talent between the two teams was noticeable early on. Cleveland took a 16-2 lead and the Cavaliers roster is just filled with talent from top to bottom. If you ranked the players who played in this game, you would rank Luka first, then when would you move on to the next Mavericks player? Seven? Eight?
Cleveland, of course, has the advantage of spending several years near the bottom of the standings after LeBron James left for the second time, allowing them to acquire talented top-10 picks like Darius Garland and Evan Mobley. The Cavs then deftly used other assets to acquire Donovan Mitchell and Jarett Allen. It’s a complete team.
Does that excuse the Mavericks’ low energy levels for the majority of the first half? Certainly not. But it was a measuring stick game for the Mavericks and they fell short. Dallas has a ways to go to build its roster to a comparable level.
Some important changes in the range
After a lackluster first half, coach Jason Kidd made some major roster changes to start the second half. Out was Dwight Powell and Dorian Finney-Smith and Christian Wood and Reggie Bullock.
It was one of the first times I can remember Finney-Smith not starting a healthy half in a long, long time. Kidd clearly wanted Bullock down to start the half to slow down Mitchell, who baked the Mavericks for 25 points in the first half. It worked too! Bullock nearly kept Mitchell’s face for most of the second half and Mitchell scored just nine points in the second half. Too bad the Mavericks couldn’t contain Mitchell’s teammates.
Wood provided a big offensive punch, nailing four three-pointers and scoring 20 points. Unfortunately, as the second half dragged on, Wood’s defensive issues showed up as the Cavaliers continually got good looks around the rim as the Mavericks’ rotations with Wood down were slow and late.
Even with mixed results, it seemed significant. Powell and Finney-Smith have been rocks in the Mavericks lineup for years. Could this be a sign that Kidd is about to mix things up? We’ll see later this week.
Tim Hardaway Jr. Cools Down
After Tim Hardaway Jr.’s outrageous five-game streak where he drilled 30 three-pointers, Hardaway has come down to earth in the last four games.
Hardaway has shot 11 of 35 (31.4%) in three over the last four games and the Mavericks are 1-3 in those games. Dallas needs Hardaway to be consistent from three to win games.
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