03/29/2009 Mavericks @ Cleveland
Not even the return of Jason Kidd to the Mavericks’ lineup was enough for the Mavs on the road in Cleveland against the team with the NBA’s best record.
Despite holding a 15-point lead in the first half, the largest deficit the Cavaliers have faced all season at home, the Mavs struggled to navigate through the Cleveland defensive in the second half, eventually falling 102-74.
With Kidd back after missing a game with soreness in his lower back and Jason Terry getting his fourth straight start, the Mavs jumped out to a quick lead on the road. Nine first quarter points from Dirk Nowitzki paced Dallas to a 30-20 advantage at the end of the opening quarter.
“We played aggressively,” Head Coach Rick Carlisle said. “Our shots were going down in the first quarter. The second quarter we missed some shots that we normally make.”
Early in the second period the Mavs’ lead ballooned to 15, but the Cavs returned to their usual form at Quicken Loans Arena, where Cleveland has loss just once this season.
The Cavs closed the gap to just 49-47 at the end of the first half. Dallas shot just under 43 percent in the half, but held the Cavs to 37 percent shooting.
That trend didn’t continue in the second half.
The third quarter began with a Cavs’ 8-0 run, giving Cleveland the lead for the first time all game. They would never relinquish the lead from that point forward.
“Our undoing was the third quarter,” Carlisle said. “They went on a (17-2) run. We were struggling to hit shots and they were scoring, and it took some of the wind out of our sails.”
Cleveland outscored the Mavs 30-11 in the third period, which was a season-low for points in a quarter for Dallas.
“We have to maintain our energy, even when our shots are not going down. We lost some of it there and that was disappointing,” Carlisle said. “(Cleveland) is a championship caliber team and you can’t have any letdowns at all. Our letdown in the third quarter really cost us.”
The Mavs struggled all second half to get easy scores, as the Cavs outscored Dallas 55-25 in the last 24 minutes.
“We didn’t put the ball in the basket in order to stop them in the third quarter,” Kidd said. “That was pretty much the game. A good team like Cleveland, you have to keep scoring and find a way to get stops and we just didn’t do that in the third or the fourth.”
Nowitzki led the Mavs with 20 points, while Terry and Erick Dampier were the only other Mavericks in double figures, scoring 10 points a piece.
The Mavs’ two leading scorers, Nowitzki and Terry, combined to shoot 11-for-36 from the floor. Dallas finished the game shooting 36 percent as a team, including 5-of-17 from 3-point range. The Mavs’ 74-point output was a season-low.
“We shot a lot of jumpers,” Kidd said. “They were a better defensive team and they were the better team tonight. It’s a lesson learned for us.”
In the loss, Kidd finished just short of a triple-double in his return with nine points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
Meanwhile, Cavalier All-Stars LeBron James and Mo Williams combined for 46 points. James eyed a triple-double of his own, dishing out 12 assists and grabbing six rebounds in 31 minutes.
“He is so talented,” Kidd said after spending much of the game defending James. “He can find the open guy. He is so unselfish. You just hope that he misses and that he turns the ball over, and he hasn’t done that for awhile, so you just try to make it tough for him.”
Dallas finishes a two-game road trip and look to end their current two-game losing streak in their matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night. The Mavs knocked off the Timberwolves on the road 95-85 on Nov. 1, the two teams’ only meeting thus far this season.
“We don’t have a lot of time to mope,” Carlisle said in preparation for Minnesota. “We have a lot of important games coming up this week, so we are going to have to regroup and get ready to play Minnesota.”
The Mavs then return home to play host to the Miami Heat on April 1 at the American Airlines Center.
Individual game tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling 214-747-MAVS or by visiting MAVS.com.