Notes, quotes and observations after the Cavaliers saw their two-game winning streak snapped with a 111-98 loss to the Dallas Mavericks Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
1. The game was not fulfilling for Larry Nance Jr., but the spoils afterward were.
2. Nance visited the Mavs’ locker room and received the signed jersey of 13-time All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki. The 7-foot German ranks seventh on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (145 points behind Wilt Chamberlain), is one of seven to reach 31,000 points and is the lone international player in that group.
3. “If you play against that guy and you’re not a fan you’re lying, so just went back there and told him how big of a fan I was and how incredible it is the things that he’s done for the game of basketball worldwide,” Nance said. “I think it’s just a very cool sign of respect. This is getting framed immediately.”
4. Nowitzki, 40, has not announced his retirement. Traded by the Bucks to the Mavs on draft night 1998, Nowitzki is in his 21st season in Dallas, an NBA record for a player with a single franchise. But fans treated Nowitzki like they were saying goodbye, applauding each time he entered the game.
5. “As they should,” Nance said. “He’s not one of those guys that is going to be asking for that, but he should get a head nod and tip of the hat in every arena he goes to because he’s that good and he deserves it.”
6. Asked how he beat out teammates for Nowitzki’s No. 41, Nance said, “I got to it quick. I have an inside man. Can’t reveal my source.”
7. Nance could feel a sentimental tie to the Mavs’ great. When Nance was with the Lakers, Nowitzki scored his 30,000th point on a 15-foot baseline jumper over Nance on March 7, 2017.
8. The rest of the night was about Mavs rookie guard Luka Doncic, another Dallas draft night coup. The Hawks drafted Doncic third overall, then traded him to the Mavericks for guard Trae Young and a 2019 first-round pick that is top five protected.
9. Doncic tied his career-high with 35 points in 33 minutes. He recorded his 10th double-double with 11 rebounds, along with six assists. He hit 13 of 25 field goals, 4 of 11 treys and 5 of 7 free throws.
10. Sometime during the night, Cavs’ radio color analyst Jim Chones compared Doncic to a young LeBron James. Doncic, who had a huge group of Slovenians in attendance to support him, is literally and figuratively a massive talent, standing 6-foot-7 and 218 pounds.
11. “Man, he’s impressive,” Nance said. “You see him on TV and everything and it’s hard to tell how tall he is until you get next to him. He’s a problem now and he’s going to be a problem for, what, we’re going to have to deal with that potentially 18 or 15 more years or however long he’s lucky enough to play. I’m a fan.”
12. Doncic is only 19, but played professionally for five seasons with Real Madrid. The experience shows.
13. “He’s very refined. But I would say more so just poised,” Nance said. “You never speed him up. He’s got his own thing going on. Just kind of cruising and you can throw whatever defender on him and he’s still got his own pace and speed to whatever he’s doing. I’m as thoroughly impressed just as the rest of the league is.”
14. Doncic scored seven points in the second half as Harrison Barnes and Jalen Brunson carried the scoring load for the Mavs.
15. “I thought the second half we did a much better job making it just a little tougher for him,” Cavs coach Larry Drew said. “I thought David (Nwaba) did a really good job at the beginning of the third (quarter) getting up in him and trying to force him into tough shots and force their team into tough possessions.”
16. Nwaba didn’t rave about Doncic as much as Nance or Chones, but said of Doncic, “He’s skilled. He has the whole package, basically. Plays under control. He’s a good player.”
17. In the first half, when Doncic hit 11 of 16 shots, 4 of 7 from long range, his deadly stepback was on display.
18. Asked why that is so hard to defend, Nwaba said, “Because he can do it all. He can drive to the basket or that stepback. He just knows how to create space and get that shot off with his high arc.”
19. Drew also complimented Doncic on his poise and how he set the tone in the first quarter, making 7 of 9 shots, 4 of 5 beyond the arc.
20. “That’s my first time seeing him. I’ve watched him a little bit on TV. He’s a terrific player,” Drew said. “He plays with a confidence as far as off the dribble or just taking the 3-point shot. When you watch their team play, basically he’s the point guard. A lot of what they do, it goes through him at the top of the floor. He’s a facilitator.
21. “Doesn’t look like he gets too rattled when teams are pressuring him defensively, it seems like he plays under control. He’s plays inside, he plays out, he’s a terrific player. Tonight I thought he came out in that first quarter, I thought he really set the tone for the rest of the game. He made some tough shots. We did a good job, he just made some tough shots. He’s a terrific player.”
22. Nwaba returned after missing 18 games with a severely sprained left ankle, but the Cavs lost Cedi Osman to a sprained right ankle in the second quarter. Drew had no update on the severity of Osman’s injury.
23. Nwaba made his mark, scoring 12 points in 15 minutes, hitting 5 of 6 shots. He added four rebounds, an assist and a steal.
24. “I feel pretty good. I felt like I was ready to play. Not 100 percent, but good enough to get out there and compete,” Nwaba said. “A little slow for the most part, but a good first step.”
25. Nwaba was able to show what he can do on both ends of the floor when he keyed a second-quarter rally that helped the Cavs open a five-point lead.
26. “That’s what I like to bring to the team, being aggressive, attacking the basket, boarding and pushing in transition,” Nwaba said. “That’s what I do best and what I feel I can bring to the team as far as defense. Just a matter of time until I’m 100 percent and feel comfortable out there.”
27. Nance said having Nwaba back will be a boost.
28. “Having another tough individual 1-on-1 defender is huge,” Nance said. “When we get broken down off the dribble and the defense collapses, that’s when they get 3s. Having another guy that can take the challenge, man up and guard his man side to side and 1 on 1 is going to end up being big time for us.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.