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Mavericks welcome Marion back, LeBron and Cavs come to town

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PREVIEW – Dallas opens up a five-game homestand with a visit from LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at 7:30 p.m.

The Mavericks (41-24) remain in the sixth spot in the West standings, 1/2 game behind the Los Angeles Clippers and 1/2 game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs. Dallas snapped a two-game skid with a come-from-behind victory against the Lakers on Sunday.

LA led by as much as nine in the third quarter and led by two after three. Dallas used a 16-1 run in a five minute stretch, turning a six-point deficit into a nine-point lead with 1:08 left to play. Monta Ellis scored a game-high 31 points on 12 of 22 shooting, including 5 of 7 from downtown, matching his total of made threes from his previous 11 games (5 of 16).

The Mavs were +21 from behind the arc and held the Lakers to just 2 of 14 (14 percent). Ellis scored 26 in the second half, 18 in the third and added three rebounds and three assists in 38 minutes. Al-Farouq Aminu filled the stat sheet off the bench with 13 points, five boards, six steals and three blocks in 20 minutes. Dirk Nowitzki added 12 points while Chandler Parsons scored 11 in his return from injury.

Cleveland (40-25) comes into town having lost four straight and 11 of the past 13 in Big D. The Mavs have won five straight, eight of nine and 20 of the past 27 regular-season meetings with the Cavs. Cleveland holds a 34-32 advantage in the overall series while Dallas is 18-14 at home.

Six scored in double figures, led by Ellis’ 20 points in a 109-90 victory in Cleveland on Jan. 4 in the only meeting this season between the teams. Tyson Chandler added 14 points, eight rebounds and three dimes while Nowitzki contributed 15 points, five boards and three dimes. Parsons also dished out three assists to go along with his 14 points and J.J. Barea and Richard Jefferson combine for 25 points and seven assists off the bench.

Dallas shot 56 percent from the field and 46 percent from deep. The Mavs held the Cavs to 41 and 32 percent shooting, respectively.

However, James didn’t play in that one. Kyrie Irving only played a half with back spasms and Cleveland was without its trade pieces in Iman Shumpert, Kendrick Perkins, J.R. Smith and Timofey Mosgov.

“We were fortunate, we caught a break last time. LeBron didn’t play, but their whole team is different now,” Rick Carlisle said. “They have made some real strong trades. Mosgov has given them a whole new look on the inside; Shumpert and Smith change the world for these guys, defensively and on the perimeter with their shot making, so we’re going to see four or five different guys that we didn’t see the first time around.”

“First time, Irving had back spasms so he only played half a game. It’s a different animal tonight for sure. We know what they’ve been doing, we’ve seen how they have been dominating and we know we’re going to have to play well in all areas to win.”

The Cavs have won three of their last four after a 89-79 victory over Phoenix on March 7. James finished with 17 points and a team-high eight assists and six boards in 36 minutes. Kevin Love recorded his 32nd double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Only up six after one, Cleveland outscored the Suns 50-28 in the second and third quarters and led by as many as 32 points.

Shawn Marion returned to practice on Monday, but will not play in his return to Dallas, where he spent the five previous seasons in. Marion averaged 11.6 points and seven rebounds in 361 games with 308 starts and helped Dallas win the 2011 NBA title.

“He’s one of the all-time great Mavericks, there’s no question about it. His contributors over five years were gigantic, to a championship to a consistent level of success,” Carlisle said.

A video tribute will be played for his time with the Mavs.

But for Dallas, this is just the beginning of a tough stretch. The Mavs play the next five at home, where at 21-10, have the worst win percentage at home among the Top-8 Western Conference teams. Including the Cavs, the next four of five opponents are playoff teams (Clippers, Thunder, Grizzlies).

“It’s important for us because we have to get as many wins as possible. We have a tough stretch, schedule doesn’t get any easier so we have to look at every game as games we have to get,” Chandler said. “It’s that time of the year, teams going to start coming out a little more focused and a little more intense, gotta start kicking it in gear with playoffs around the corner.”

“All these games are going to be big like I said down the stretch, that time of year so we have to come in and approach it like it was a playoff game and turn our intensity up and try to roll into April.”

Devin Harris, who has missed the past two games, could return tonight.

“He’s doing better. I think there’s a chance he’ll play,” Carlisle said.

Dallas is 20-7 vs the East this season, tied with Golden State in the West for the most wins against East teams, but just 5-3 vs teams in the Central division. The Cavs are 15-12 vs the West and just 2-5 against teams from the Southwest division.

Next: Mavericks Enter Make or Break Stretch Run

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