The Mavericks welcome in the NBA-worst Cleveland team to the American Airlines Center, hoping to hand the Cavaliers a 25th straight loss. Earl K. Sneed previews the matchup.
DALLAS — Sandwiched in between two three-game road trips, the Mavericks’ matchup with the NBA-worst Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night could either serve as a gift or a curse for the home team.
After rekindling their success, sprinting to an eight-game winning streak and nine wins in the last 10 games since suffering a six-game skid in the month of January, the Mavericks (35-15) have once again ascended back up the Western Conference standings. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have stumbled to a dubious distinction, falling in 24 straight outings to set an NBA record for futility.
Now, the Mavs hope not to get caught looking forward to their upcoming Western Conference trip that lies ahead, in order to avoid being the team the Cavaliers (8-43) break their losing streak against.
“We’ve been winning for so long now, it felt really weird to lose six in a row. But I don’t know how it feels to lose that many in a roll,” Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said of Cleveland’s current skid. ”I mean, my first two years in the league we were an under-.500 team and we lost a bunch, so that was tough. But since then, we’ve won 50 games almost every year and you get used to winning. It’s way more fun. I think the attitude in the locker room is much better when you win.”
But in order to keep Cleveland’s continuous free-fall going, the Mavericks say that they’ll need to continue to rely on their full arsenal of sharpshooters, which may included the Dallas debut of Peja Stojakovic as soon as Monday night.
Even without Stojakovic, balanced scoring has become a staple of this year’s Mavericks squad, as evident by the multiple double-figure scorers the team has utilized of late. That balance will once again be called upon against the Cavaliers, as the Mavericks try to repeat the results of a 104-95 win in Cleveland on Jan. 2.
Playing without the services of Nowitzki while the 7-footer missed nine games with a sprained right knee, five Mavericks scored in double figures even with their leading scorer sidelined for the first meeting between the two teams. And now, with Nowitzki back on the floor and rolling, even he says that sharing the wealth will once again be the formula to claiming a season sweep of the Cavaliers.
“We’re in a position where we’re trying to build and get better,” Nowitzki said. “And if we share the ball offensively, then I think we’ll be in good shape.”
Behind that balanced offensive attack, the Mavs also hope to continue their triple-digit scoring stretch from the last seven games.
The team is now 25-1 this season in games it has reached the 100-point mark. And star reserves Jason Terry and Shawn Marion both say that will once again be the key to handing the Cavaliers a 25th straight loss.
“We’re just having fun, just doing what we do,” Terry said. “Back to how we came out of training camp, that same kind of feeling, that same type of edginess about us. That competitive fire is there … But hey, it’s a long season. And this is just another stretch where we’ve been able to get things accomplished, especially offensively the way we’re moving the ball.”
“Just keep hitting that century mark,” Marion echoed. “It seems like every time we hit that century mark, everything else takes care of itself.”
But the four-time All-Star admits that may be easier said than done, despite Cleveland’s slumping play. And so, Marion and his teammates are preparing for a dogfight, especially with Monday night’s matchup the first of just three home games in the month of February.
“It’s a fight every night, and this is the NBA. Every team is a different challenge for us, and I think we’ve just got to prepare ourselves the best way we can to match up with these guys … Just go out there and have fun doing it,” Marion concluded.
“No team in the league is gonna lay down,” Nowitzki added. “Every team is gonna make you work. You’ve got to be ready to play, and we’ve got to be ready.”
Note: Riding an eight-game winning streak, the Mavericks return to Dallas to host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night at the American Airlines Center. The matchup will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest. Great seats are still available and tickets can be purchased by visiting the American Airlines Center box office, logging on to Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287).
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