Game 66: Cavs at Mavericks
American Airlines Center
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA TV
1. This has to be one of the most complete games the Cavs have played this season. It was the start of a four-game road trip that will take the Cavs across the country. The swing through Texas is going to be a tough test. They travel San Antonio to face the defending champion Spurs on Thursday. That should be a good one.
2. The Mavs aren't exactly chopped liver. They came into the game the sixth seed in the Western Conference. They were no match for the Cavs on this night. The Cavs were more physical, more athletic, more cerebral and just the better team. They had all five starters reach double figures in scoring. Four of them had 20 or more. It was a complete butt-whippin' for the Wine & Gold. The Cavs had lost five in a row to the Mavericks, including their last four at the American Airlines Center.
3. Cavs forward LeBron James (4,214) passed No. 2 Mark Price (4,206) as the franchise's all-time leader in assists. He dished out eight assists. He had 27 points in 29 minutes. He added seven rebounds, one steal and one block. He was the best player on the court - and in the NBA - on this night. He played without his signature headband for the second game in a row (he started wearing it against Phoenix, but left it off from the second quarter on). He's playing like he's on a mission.
4. The key will be how he plays in San Antonio. The Spurs know how to guard him (see Atlanta game last Friday). They blitz him when James comes off a pick-and-roll. For some reason, it throws him for a loop. The other players on the roster will have to step up in a big way to beat the Spurs. The Spurs have been laying low all season. You know they are going to be a major factor in the playoffs.
5. I loved how Kyrie Irving played tonight. He attacked the basket. When he does that, he's practically unguardable. He finished with 22 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals.
6. Kevin Love continued his assault on the Mavericks with 21 points and 14 rebounds. He started a bit slow, but got better as the game wore on. Love's eyes seem to light up when he plays the Mavs. He had 30 points vs. Dallas in the Jan. 4 meeting in Cleveland. He'd scored 30 or more points in six of his previous seven games against the Mavs. In his last nine games against Dallas before tonight, Love had averaged 29.4 points and 12.4 rebounds.
7. I guaranteed my son tonight that Cavs center Timofey Mozgov would play in the fourth quarter. I knew he would. Why? Because the media has been peppering Coach David Blatt with questions about why Timo hasn't been playing in the fourth quarter. I knew he was going to play. He ended with 17 points, four rebounds and two blocks on the night.
8. Cavs forward/center Tristan Thompson needs one offensive rebound to become the ninth player in franchise history to grab 1,000 in his career. He recorded his seventh double-double off the bench this season in the Phoenix game with 15 points and 12 rebounds. That's tied for first in the NBA. Thompson has 13 double-doubles on the season overall (six in the starting lineup). He struggled against Dallas with no points and one rebound in almost 15 minutes.
9. The Cavs have just 16 games left in the regular season after tonight's game. It really is moving fast. We'll be starting the playoffs soon.
10. The Cavs are 12-1 in their last 13 games against West teams. On the season, they are a respectable 15-12 vs. the West. They are now 17-16 on the road this season.
The Spurs will be a stern test, however.
11. They are 22-5 in their last 27 games. I believe they'll finish 3-1 on this road trip.
12. Coach David Blatt said forward Shawn Marion will likely return some time on this trip. If I had to guess, perhaps the Orlando game at 6 p.m. Sunday.
UP NEXT: at San Antonio, AT&T Center, 9:30 p.m. Thursday
SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Chandler Parsons (6-10, 230)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Tyson Chandler (7-1, 245)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Monta Ellis (6-3, 185)
Mavs - F/C Greg Smith, F/C Dwight Powell
Jason Phillips, Leroy Richardson, Haywoode Workman