Cleveland Cavaliers: 3 Observations from loss to Dallas Mavericks

The Cleveland Cavaliers are now 4-1 in preseason after their first loss Friday night against the Dallas Mavericks. Many factors went into the Cavaliers loss, but here are three observations from the game.
Kyrie Irving Returns
After missing the last three preseason games due to a sprained ankle, Irving was ready to go. He picked up right where he left off, coming out strong and aggressive. Irving finished with a game high of 23 points while handing out five assists and three blocks.  The young All-Star had the crowd on their feet as he showed off his skills along with a highlight reel alley-oop to LeBron James which ended being a foul, but still a glimpse of the excitement this team possesses.
Kyrie Irving
Irving is a special player and his ability to play at the speed he plays with and for the amount of minutes is going to get, should be good for this Cavaliers team. If he stays healthy and keeps adding to his game, this season promises to be his best yet.
Shawn Marion & Kevin Love Rested
This game mar

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Dallas Mavericks vs. Indiana Pacers 10/18/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Indiana Pacers looked to use their stalwart defensive rotation to shut down a revamped Dallas Mavericks squad Saturday night in preseason action.

Check out the full highlights.

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Dallas Mavericks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers 10/17/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Dallas Mavericks and Cleveland Cavaliers squared off in a highly-anticipated preseason clash on Friday. The new-look Cavs look explosive prior to the season, but faced a tough test from the Mavericks and their sharpshooting offens

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Dallas Mavericks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: Live Score, Highlights and Reaction

LeBron James, Kevin Love and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers (4-0) continue their preseason tuneup Friday against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks (1-2).

Both teams have the early part of their rotations more or less set. So, the rest of the preseason will be about fine-tuning and figuring out who can provide depth during the season.

 

Tipoff7:30 p.m. ET

Coverage: NBATV

 

Keys to the Game

For both the Mavericks and the Cavaliers, the key to this game is continuing the development of chemistry and continuity among new teammates.

Cleveland is integrating several new faces, including Love and James. Dallas is working on getting Chandler Parsons, Tyson Chandler and plenty of bench players familiar with the system.

 

For live updates and analysis, stay tuned to Bleacher Report throughout the game.

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Diagnosing Dallas Mavericks’ Weak Link for 2014-15

The Dallas Mavericks will march into the 2014-15 regular season with a significantly higher ceiling than a year ago. This is no longer a fringe playoff team, but a legitimate contender for a top-four seed in the incredibly competitive Western Conference. If there is anything that could potentially derail this improved roster, it has to be its age.

Even after adding some young talent this summer, the Mavericks are the seventh-oldest team in the NBA, with an average age of 28. As a rule of thumb, the more mileage an athlete registers on his limbs, the more susceptible he becomes to reoccurring injuries.

Some are more durable than others, but the 82-game regular season marathon generally has very little mercy on veteran teams, which welcome additional recovery time with open arms. 

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich knows this better than anyone. He excels at keeping a veteran squad healthy by resting his stars on a relatively regular basis. This is a habit Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle will have to adapt to a similar extent as well.

Injuries are part of any sport, and every team has to deal with them. No player, regardless of age, is immune to a freak incident on or off the court. However, some teams are simply better equipped than others to pick up the slack when a key contributor goes down.

The Oklahoma City Thunder recently lost Kevin Durant for up to two months. Having to cope without the league MVP is a tough pill to swallow, and it will make the Thunder’s road to the top seed in the conference an uphill battle. Even so, securing home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs shouldn’t be an issue for Oklahoma City, as they are set up to hold down the fort until their superstar returns. 

The margin of error is significantly smaller in Dallas’ case. A couple of months without either Tyson Chandler or Dirk Nowitzki could swiftly revert the team right back to borderline playoff status.

 

The Importance of Staying Healthy

Chandler, 32, and Nowitzki, 36, have a couple of things in common. They are both over 30 years old, and will be under flexible minute restrictions this season. Chandler has a long injury history, and even though Nowitzki has been exceptionally durable in his illustrious career, he also had an injury-riddled 2012-13 campaign himself.

They are also the two most integral and irreplaceable components of the concoction that is Dallas’ roster.

The Mavericks had the best offense in the league last season after the All-Star break, boasting an offensive rating of 111.1 points per 100 possessions. The offense will be even more scary with Chandler Parsons on board, but if you subtract Nowitzki out of the equation things could go south real fast.

The best of the three most-used lineups without Nowitzki registered a 103.8 offensive rating, which would have ranked around the middle of the pack league-wide. The 7-footer is essentially the difference between Dallas having an elite or an average offense, and Parsons’ presence can’t make up for that gap.

Chandler won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2012 for holding together the New York Knicks‘ defense. He then polished his resume with an All-Defensive First Team nomination the following year. The general consensus is that the 7’1″ center declined last season, but that’s only half-true.

Not even Roy Hibbert could have saved the train wreck that was the Knicks’ defense in 2013-14. Chandler might have lost a little step, but he is still able to make a distinctive difference.

In 2010-11, the Mavericks’ defense improved by 3.5 points per 100 possessions with Chandler on the floor. The same guy propelled the Knicks’ mediocre defense to a top-five ranking upon his arrival in 2011-12.

The Mavericks ranked seventh in the league defensively during their championship run. They were an awful 22nd last year, and Chandler’s presence in a zone-heavy system could have the Mavericks sniffing around the top 10 this season, assuming the perimeter defenders also show up.

Injury to any other starter would obviously hurt Dallas, but they are deep enough to survive. An extended layoff for Chandler or Nowitzki, however, could lead to disaster.

The Memphis Grizzlies lost Marc Gasol for a longer period last season, and they needed to finish strong to even make the playoffs. They went 40-19 with their defensive anchor in the lineup and 10-13 in his absence. In the end, they relied on a post-All-Star break surge to even make the playoffs.

Just like the Grizzlies (and most teams outside of the Thunder, Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers in the West), the Mavericks are extremely reliant on their key players staying healthy. When those players are of a respectable age, you’re walking a very slippery edge.

The competition in the West is fierce. The difference between home-court advantage and the eighth seed in the conference was just five games last year. It could be even closer this season. Carlisle‘s job is to win basketball games, and it will be interesting to see how many potential victories he is willing to sacrifice in order to rest his older players. 

The Mavericks have all the tools to fight for a top-four seed. Then again, they could very well find themselves struggling to stay afloat if father time trips up their veterans.

 

All statistics used are courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com unless otherwise noted.

You can follow me on Twitter: @VytisLasaitis

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Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks 10/10/14: Video Highlights and Recap

Two of the Western Conference’s blue blood franchises faced off when the Oklahoma City Thunder met the Dallas Mavericks in a preseason clash on Friday night. The Thunder and Mavericks ranked as two of the better Western Conference sides last season and both were eager to prove they hadn’t lost a step.

Check out the video highlights above.

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Dallas Mavericks Unveil Fan-Designed 2015-16 Uniforms

Earlier this year, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban held a contest for fans to submit uniform design ideas for the 2015-16 season.

On Tuesday, Cuban and the Mavericks unveiled what the new alternate uniforms will look like.

It looks like this was a win-win idea for Dallas. The uniforms look sharp, and the team was able to get the fans involved in the process. This fan now has some solid bragging rights to his name.the

How do these uniforms compare to the Mavericks’ current threads?

[Twitter]

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Point guards are the Dallas Mavericks biggest question mark

Who steps up at point guard for the Dallas Mavericks? The Dallas Mavericks made aggressive moves this offseason. The Mavericks acquired Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton in a trade with the New York Knicks for point guard Jose Calderon, center Samuel Dalembert, reserves Shane Larkin and Wayne Ellington, along with 34th and 52 picks in the 2014 NBA draft; Cleanthony Early from Wichita Sate and Thanasis Antetokounmpo from the Delaware 87ers of the NBA D-League. This was a significant trade for both teams, although I believe the Knicks got the better end of that deal. Besides this eight-player trade the Dallas Mavericks pulled off, the Mavericks also went out and signed Chandler Parsons to a three year $46 million contract. Even with these two impactful moves, the Mavericks still acquired Jameer Nelson in free agency, and resigned Devin Harris. Which leads one to ask the question; who will start at point guard for the Dallas Mavericks? The Dallas Mavericks have three quality point guards in Raymond Felton, Devin

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What Dallas Mavericks Need from Dirk Nowitzki Next Season

In many ways, the Dallas Mavericks are a completely different team. They have new point guards, a revamped roster, a potential new playing style and, to top it off, elevated expectations for the 2014-15 season.

But really, the core of the team has remained the same.

The team still ultimately begins and ends with Dirk Nowitzki, as it has for the last 15 years. Between his shooting stroke and role as the cornerstone of the Mavericks, as long as he’s on the roster he will be a massive part of the franchise.

Then again, this season will be Dirk’s 17th NBA season. He can’t be expected to be the same player he once was. He’s changing along with the team.

With more help coming in, this is the most talented roster Dallas has had in a while. And as such, they need some tweaks from their star. Tweaks Dirk would be wise to make.

 

Doing More with Less

Last season, Monta Ellis was really the only guy on the floor besides Dirk who could create with the ball in his hands. Okay, maybe one and a half if Devin Harris counts.

But now, that number has ballooned.

Chandler Parsons will be a primary option on the wing, and he will have a lot of creative responsibilities. Raymond Felton and Jameer Nelson both will look to be more aggressive than their predecessor Jose Calderon. And a full season of the ever-attacking Devin Harris adds another player to this group.

And this means that Dirk will be less of a focus point. Fewer possessions will revolve around feeding Nowitzki in his spots. Now this may not be a ton of possessions, but it will be some.

As foreign as this sounds, it might not actually be a bad thing.

Nowitzki seemed to physically wear down as the season progressed. If the Mavs can afford to trim his minutes down and save him for later in the year, all the better.

But the bottom line is that Dirk will have to produce at a similar level with fewer opportunities. Though not being involved as much might save his legs, the Mavs still need production from their big guy.

He can afford to pick his spots, and he’ll probably get more catch-and-shoot opportunities, both luxuries that the Mavericks couldn’t afford last season. Obviously these are things that Dirk could like once he gets adapted to the new adjustments. But once he gets comfortable, these small changes will really help everyone around him.

 

Leadership

Unlike the previous section, this aspect requires essentially no changes from Dirk.

Nowitzki is not just the on-court core of the team, he’s also the leader in the locker room. The guy is loved by his fellow Mavs, and he’s the ultimate teammate, a guy other stars love to follow.

Take it from Tyson Chandler. The 13-year veteran gushed about Nowitzki in an interview with a local Dallas radio station.

He’s the type of guy, if I was a GM or president or owner, that I’d want to start my team with. He’s given Dallas his everything. When I first got here, I remember coming back late at night to get a lift in or work on some free throws and every single time I got there, he was there. He’d be putting up shot after shot after shot. It just shows that he’s never going to settle and he doesn‘t want to settle. He always wants to win and he’s willing to do whatever it takes. A lot was made about what I did and what I accomplished in my year here. He’s the man. When you have the top dog leading that way, you can’t help but fall in line

This team needs a leader. Someone to bring the roster’s mix of age, talent, role and experience together. Chandler has been all over the league and has seen his fair share of ups and downs. He knows a good leader when he sees one, and apparently he sees one in Dallas.

The task of meshing this team together will fall largely on Nowitzki’s shoulders. He’s done it for a couple of years now with all the recent roster turnover. The Mavs need him to do it one more time.

 

Crunch Time 

Let’s play a little game. Look at the Mavericks roster and point out some guys who you’d feel comfortable with taking a big shot down the stretch.

Chandler Parsons doesn’t have much experience in that department. Raymond Felton hasn’t earned anyone’s trust yet. Jameer Nelson shot incredibly poorly last year and Devin Harris didn’t shoot the lights out either. Richard Jefferson might rise to the occasion, but solely as a catch-and-shoot player.

Monta Ellis is the only guy who has recently shown any late-game chops. Him and Dirk Nowitzki.

So though Dirk may see less minutes and fewer touches, until the Mavs know what they have with this new roster, he will still have to be the fourth-quarter rock he’s always been.

According to NBA.com’s clutch stats database, last season Nowitzki was 18th in clutch scoring and had a plus minus of 1.9 in those same situations. Even in his mid-30s, he’s still as reliable as ever.

The guy even has his own top-10 clutch-shots video on YouTube for crying out loud.

Dirk’s late-game heroics are essential for Dallas. When the Mavs really are searching for a bucket, they need Dirk to answer the call. They need to have that option. Whether he’s a decoy or the trigger man, the team must have Dirk be the crunch-time guy they’re accustomed to.

Or else the late-game options get real thin real fast.

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Breaking Down Dallas Mavericks’ Shooting Guard Position for 2014-15 Season

A year ago the Mavs signed Monta Ellis with the hope that he’d be an upgrade over the incredibly forgettable O.J. Mayo. The Mavs hoped that they could curtail some of Ellis’ wild plays and increase his efficiency, therefore turning him into a solid starter.

Ellis’ inefficiencies have been well documented. He was notorious for launching long, low-percentage jumpers and had a striking aversion to playing defense. His athleticism is undeniable, though before he came to Dallas his basketball IQ was in serious question.

But lo and behold, Ellis exceeded expectations and became a key cog in a 49-win Mavs team. And all of a sudden that third-year player option for $8.72 million seems like less of an albatross and more of a potential opt-out.

Of course, Ellis wasn’t the only new face to see time at the 2-guard. Devin Harris played quite a few minutes off the ball, and Vince Carter manned that spot when he came in off the bench.

But now things are a bit different. The Mavs added two starting-caliber point guards in Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton to the backcourt, and Vinsanity signed a three-year deal in Memphis.

With all these new pieces in play, the shooting guard spot is due for a check-up before the season rolls around.

 

Grading Last Year’s Performance

After taking a chance and striking out for a year with Mayo, the Mavs had the gall to confidently walk back up to the plate and take another huge swing, this time with a three-year contract for Monta Ellis.

Fortunately, the gamble paid off this time.

Ellis’ reputation as a gunner seemed to fall by the wayside, as he averaged his usual 19 points, but he took fewer shots and upped his shooting by 3.5 points. And as Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry documented in March, Ellis’ once illogical shot chart now has a very focused look to it.

As a member of the Milwaukee Bucks in 2012-13, Ellis shot from just about anywhere and rarely did he hit those shots consistently. As Maverick in 2013-14, Ellis obviously knew his spots. He made his money at the rim and around the right elbow, with a dash of threes sprinkled in.

And best of all, Ellis made his shots consistently.

Put it all together, and Monta becomes a weapon rather than an obstacle. Ellis rocketing off a Dirk Nowitzki screen became a feared play and subsequently the go-to for Dallas.

But Ellis’ turnaround wasn’t the only thing the Mavs had working for them. Once he was healthy, Devin Harris played some minutes at the 2 and proved to be well worth the veteran’s minimum that he played for last season.

On a team full of aging players with older legs, Harris provided a spark whenever he came off the bench. He loved attacking the paint, and was one of the few Mavs who could consistently create his own shot in the half court.

He became so integral to Dallas’ efforts he ended up playing 25.3 minutes per game in the playoffs against the Spurs.

And of course there was Vince Carter. He was a great bench scorer for the Mavs, putting up 11.9 points in 24.4 minutes per game while shooting 39.7 percent from three.

All that being said, there were some problems from Dallas’ shooting guard rotation last season. Ellis’ ability to play defense failed to improve like the rest of his game, and he was a liability on that end of the floor all season. Carter was also pretty bad defensively, though at 37 that’s more understandable.

Harris battled injuries all season and played in only 40 games. And though he provided an offensive spark, he also shot only 37.8 percent from the floor.

The position as a whole improved last season, but still had notable holes. Ellis and Harris both turned out to be shrewd signings, and Vince turned in another solid season. Injuries and defensive struggles held Dallas’ 2-guards back.

2013-14 Shooting Guards: B

 

What to Expect This Season

As with the rest of the roster, the shooting guard position was shaken up a bit with the Mavs’ offseason acquisitions.

No true shooting was guard added, but Raymond Felton and Jameer Nelson are now in play. With Harris also still around at the point, there are a lot of starting-caliber players with only two spots. So the Mavs could easily trot out lineups with a point at the shooting guard.

And though that isn’t traditional, it’s a tool with which Dallas could really do well.

Dallas’ offense is built on ball movement and pick-and-rolls. The more smart players on the floor the better, and ball handlers are extremely valuable. In other words, more players with point guard skills is a very good thing.

That being said, most likely the Mavs’ shooting-guard rotation will remain the same.

There’s nothing to suggest that Ellis won’t continue being the minutes sponge he’s always been. And if he continues to cut down on the bad basketball plays he’ll be even more dangerous.

What really held Devin Harris back last season was health, and though he’s been an oft-injured player in his career, he’s fully healthy right now. And with a training camp under his belt, he should be more comfortable and his awful shooting percentages should bump up.

Between Harris and Ellis, that should be most of the minutes at shooting guard. Though unlikely, it’s possible that someone like Ricky Ledo, who led the Mavssummer league team in scoring, could crack the rotation. And depending on if the Mavs opt to go bigger, some small forward types like Chandler Parsons could see an occasional blow at the 2.

What it boils down to is that Monta Ellis will see 75 percent of the shooting-guard minutes. But with all the flexibility in the Mavs backcourt, that other 25 percent of the time could get very interesting. Maybe the Mavs go small with a point guard there, or maybe they want a bigger wing in that spot. Rick Carlisle could trot out some very interesting lineups, and that will start with how they utilize their minutes at the 2.

Giving Carlisle options is never a bad thing, and he’ll have plenty of weapons to play with at shooting guard this season. It should be a very fun year in Dallas.

 

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