Coming off such a heart-breaking loss at home at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks look to get back on track vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Despite the two teams positioned in different conferences, both teams aren’t far from each other in regards to playoff seeding. Coincidentally, regardless of what tier of playoff contention the two teams fall under, they are both sixth in their respective conferences. The Dallas Mavericks look to be in the middle of a basketball transformation.
However, true to the low standards of the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers are a meddling 2-3.
Nevertheless, records and conference differences aside, matchups breed deficiencies. The Dallas Mavericks are notorious for lacking in the rebounding department. Naturally, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love are the primary players that will spell trouble for Dallas.
Furthermore, as a whole, the Cleveland Cavaliers rank 15th in defensive rating, which is run of the mill, though not the stat of a subpar defensive team. Quite frankly, Dallas doesn’t want to get in a slower-paced contest with the Cavaliers. Pushing the pace should be a point of emphasis for Dallas to run away with the win Monday night.
Nothing is set in stone, yet this feels like a trap game. Therefore, this game is must-watch tv.
The Renaissance of Kevin Love
After only playing 22 games last season due to injury, the stock of Kevin Love was depressingly low. Not only was a former champion and a five-time NBA All-Star forgotten, but the team was also falling into misery. Now, equipped with a Jason mask, Love is looking to remerge as an Eastern Conference All-Star.
Love, never mistaken for a defensive juggernaut, is averaging a career-high in defensive box plus/minus, albeit five games into the season. Historically, Dallas has fallen victim to Love’s rebounding. Love averaged 11.8 rebounds in 24 contests facing the Dallas Mavericks. Expect more of the same, considering Dallas doesn’t possess any rebounding threat on the roster.
Sometimes less is more. Love, although not the same triple-double threat during his time in Minnesota, is putting up career-high efficiency stats. Love is entering Sunday night with a 21.4 usage rating; not since his rookie season has he averaged such a low number.
The career-high .656 true shooting is the shining number as a result of his lower usage. Perhaps, Kristaps Porzingis matches up favorably for Dallas, yet Love is a crafty veteran who demands respect. Besides, Porzingis is not where Dallas needs him to be in regards to defense. It’s entirely plausible for Love to live in the paint while Tristan Thompson is on the bench.
Rebounding is the Key
You grab the ball off an opponent’s miss, which allows your team to score. Sometimes basketball is simple.
Sunday night is going to boil down to who is willing to jump with exceptionable rebounding bigs, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. 28.2 is the magic number; the number represents how many rebounds the two frontcourt teammates account for this season. Unfortunately, the Mavericks don’t have one player who sticks out as a rightful opponent for the two bigs.
Luka Doncic leads Dallas in rebounds. Whether or not that is a good sign has yet to be determined. Moreover, it’s doubtful the Mavs focus on the sophomore star on the boards, especially coming off a banged-up second half versus the Lakers. Porzingis’ recent rebounding woes make him a darkhorse candidate for a breakout game. Once again, Dallas has a lot of work to do Sunday night.
Rick Carlisle let the 7’3 cat out of the bag Friday night. Boban Marjonovic got to stretch his skyscraper-like legs in a matchup with Dwight Howard. Since the Cavaliers aren’t a fast-paced team, don’t be surprised when Carlisle lets Marjonovic out to play. In the 11 minutes played last Friday, he grabbed an impressive 32.6 percentage of available rebounds.
Mavericks Must Capitalize on Upcoming Lighter Stretch
Although not every win against a bad team is deemed as a comfortable victory, good teams soundly take care of inferior opponents on the schedule. If Dallas is serious about contending for a playoff spot, then this six-game stretch is indicative of where the team is as a playoff hopeful.
The next six games aren’t exactly a test of strength. Out of the six upcoming contests, only two teams appeared in the 2019 playoffs. After Today’s game, the Mavericks come home for a two-game homestand. The first contest is against the defensive pests, Orlando Magic. This team has wings who will make Dallas’ time hard, mainly Doncic.
The next game is the Knicks, and Dennis Smith‘s return aside, the Knicks are a haven for a bunch of trade deadline pieces. I feel this game will be closer than most envision, but ultimately Dallas settles the score. Dallas getting the victory over Cleveland Cavaliers lays the foundation for a winning streak.