Mavericks Host Cavs
The Cleveland Cavaliers have experienced lulls in the two seasons since LeBron James returned, infuriating their captain and inducing him to get on teammates.
Last week, James questioned the front office’s dedication to winning.
Sensing he’s going to need more help to defend Cleveland’s NBA title in a potential championship rematch against the loaded-to-the-gills Golden State Warriors, James has again become grumpy and outspoken while he continues to lead the league in minutes played per game.
Perhaps Sunday’s 107-91 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder to end a three-game skid — with two losses coming in overtime — will start to ease some the tension. After allowing an average of 119.3 points in those losses, the Cavaliers got back to a more defensive stance.
At the other end, James became the first player in franchise history to reach 20,000 points after scoring 25 points while adding 14 rebounds and eight assists.
“We just want to play good basketball and (Sunday) we did that,” James told reporters after beating the Thunder. “It started with the defensive end.”
Said Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue: “It’s definitely something to build on. Hopefully this can be a game that turns us around defensively.”
With the Cavaliers (32-14) leaving for Dallas to cap a back-to-back Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks (17-30), who had the misfortune of playing at San Antonio on Sunday night, speculation shifted as to if James, and point guard Kyrie Irving for that matter, would even make the trip to Dallas.
It would make sense if Lue opted to rest his two workhorses with Cleveland going back home after the one-game pit stop to play Minnesota on Wednesday.
The answer is yes to both James and Irving playing at Dallas. Forward Kevin Love, however, will not. He remained in Cleveland after leaving Sunday’s game with spasms in his bothersome lower back. Love will undergo an MRI exam on Monday.
Dallas returned home Sunday feeling good about a rousing 105-101 victory at San Antonio after being down by 15 points in the second quarter. The win snapped Dallas’ 12-game losing streak in San Antonio, dating to November 2010.
The Mavericks, still playing without injured point guard Deron Williams and J.J. Barea, got a huge performance from freshly signed guard Yogi Ferrell, who had nine points, seven assists and two steals in 35 minutes. Seth Curry had a monster game with a career-best 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. It was his first career points-rebounds double-double.
“Yogi Ferrell basically off the plane and less than 36 hours starts and he was our biggest plus-guy of the game,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle told reporters after the game. “A lot of positives and a lot of guys contributed.”
Ferrell signed with the Mavericks on Saturday. One day later, he hit two pressure free throws with 7.3 seconds to go to put Dallas up by the final four-point margin.