Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Mavs: Devin Harris, Eddie Jones, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Erick Dampier
--The Mavs didn't land in Dallas after last night's loss in Utah until after 2 a.m. So the Cavs have an advantage there for a change. Not that it will make that much difference, but it could. By the way, the Mavs were using their Boeing 767 on that trip not their Boeing 757. They've got to be the only pro sports team with two jumbo jets. Most NBA teams rent 737s or 727s. --LeBron has always had good scoring games against the Mavs and he'll need another one tonight if the Cavs have any chance. In the opener he got shut down by Jones and Trenton Hassell, we'll see if he's in the mood to make up for that tonight. Big key will be how the Cavs play defense, of course. There are matchup issues everywhere, starting with Harris and Jason Terry. If the Cavs can keep them out of the lane, it will be a good start. --Keep an eye on Howard, if he gets 20 points, the Mavs usually win. --Had a conversation before the game with Ira Newble about the Benazir Bhutto killing. No Cav follows international politics like Ira.
Halftime -- Cavs 47, Mavs 38 --The Cavs shot 25 percent in the second quarter, 33 percent in the half, and they are ahead by nine at the half. How? Defense and attacking offense. The Cavs teamwork on defense has carried over from Miami. They are doing a good job on their men and rotating well. Especially on Dirk, who is just 1-of-8. Drew Gooden has not let Dirk get past him and forced Dirk to take tough jumpers. He can make those, but he's not right now. Maybe the Mavs have some dead legs, too. --LeBron missed five free throws in the first half, but he really went to the basket. All the Cavs did, they got 28 free throws in the first half, which has helped them deal with the bad shooting. This is an ugly game, but it is the style they can win. They have had success running the pick-and-roll inside. --The Cavs have had big leads in this building before and blown them. Of course, we all know they are not good to start third quarters. Plus Avery Johnson is probably firing his team up right now. The first few minutes of the second half will tell a lot. The Cavs will need some more offense in the second half no matter what.
Postgame -- Cavs 88, Mavs 81
Stars LeBron James, 24 points, eight rebounds, seven assists Larry Hughes, 17 points, nine rebounds Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 18 points, 11 rebounds Dirk Nowitzki, 19 points, 20 rebounds Josh Howard, 19 points, seven rebounds
--The Cavs have been too inconsistent to take too much from any one game, but this victory illustrates that they still have a spark when they get going. They have a win over Boston, who has just three losses, and now a win in Dallas, where they've lost just three times. The bad blowout losses to the Knicks and Warriors have muddied the water, but the Cavs actually have won 4 of 6 and played strong defense in three of their last four games. Huge stat of the night: Mavs got just 20 points in the paint. --There was no doubt the Mavs were affected by being on the back-to-back. They missed some shots they normally make. But that's the NBA. Credit must be given to the Cavs, who got several big baskets from Hughes, Devin Brown and Daniel Gibson to maintain the lead. They took control in the second quarter and never gave it up, that's impressive in this building. --The halfcourt offense was ugly at times. They were double-teaming LeBron off the picks and he didn't handle it well at times, making some bad passes. Not to mention Z missed a handful of wide open jumpers, though he made up for it somewhat with his offensive rebounding. Erick Dampier, by the way, had two rebounds and one point tonight. Z was not that good and he had 18 and 11. Yet I still get e-mails ripping the big guy. --Drew Gooden is a good job of forcing Dirk to settle for jumpers. That is his greatest weakness, when he doesn't attack the basket. He's got a great long range game, but when that's all he uses he is one dimensional. Also, LeBron made a great defensive play late in the game by coming over to double Dirk from the backside as he tried to get a jumper off. It forced a turnover. --LeBron's dunk at the end of the game was classic. The guys in the TNT trunk were running it over and over from every angle after the game. He went right on Howard, crossed over to the left behind his back. He pushed the ball in front of him to split Howard and Dirk, who was coming to help. Then he finished on Stackhouse's head. He also traveled because he switched pivot feet, but that's never getting called there. That's a star making a play and for LeBron to do it by going to the hoop is a good sign. --Enough complaining about the refs. This was a bad crew. But there were a bunch of non-calls on the Cavs in the first half. It is funny to watch Mark Cuban during the game. When he thinks there is a bad call, he'll signal to the scoreboard operator that he wants a replay on the screen.
Quotes Mike Brown: "The more we embrace our identity, the more confidence we'll gain." LeBron on the dunk: "I just wanted to be aggressive and finish out the game." Avery Johnson: "Whatever the schedule says, we are expected to come out and play with energy."