The Dallas Mavericks (23-53) lost a heartbreaker last time out as they fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves, 93-92, who completed the season sweep of Dallas. The loss was the Mavs’ seventh in their last eight games.
Harrison Barnes led the way with 19 points and four rebounds while rookie Dennis Smith Jr. added 17 points and seven assists in 26 minutes. Meanwhile, Dirk Nowitzki had another quiet game. The veteran finished March by scoring seven points or fewer in four of his last five games.
Dirk and the Mavs now head over to Cleveland to face the Cavs (46-30), who won their seventh game in their last eight as they took down the New Orleans Pelicans, 107-102. LeBron James thoroughly outplayed Anthony Davis in the battle of the superstars as he delivered 27 points, nine rebounds, and 11 assists.
The Cavs also got Kevin Love back after the big man missed the better part of the last two games due to concussion-like symptoms. He wasn’t quite at his best as he finished with just eight points (3-11 FG) and eight rebounds. However, Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood were on hand to pick up the slack as they combined for 39 points on a sizzling 16-of-24 from the field.
Three keys to the game
Home-court advantage – Since losing back-to-back home games to start the month, the Cavs have won their last five games in a row at the Q. Their confidence should be sky high to keep that impressive run going, especially with their entire squad back intact.
Kevin Love – Speaking of Love, his return is huge for the Cavs. He has made an immediate impact after returning from a broken hand. While he wasn’t at his best against the Pelicans, he should be able to bounce back against the Mavs, who have serious problems defending opposing bigs. Love knows that first-hand as he dropped 29 points (11-19 FG) and 15 rebounds in their first meeting this season.
Mavs scoring – The Mavs have missed J.J. Barea. With the veteran guard not with the team due to personal reasons, the Mavs have scored just 93 points or fewer in back-to-back games. That won’t do against the Cavs, who have the superior firepower. Dallas will find it hard to remain competitive in Cleveland if they don’t find more consistent scoring apart from Harrison Barnes.
Matchup to watch
Harrison Barnes vs LeBron James – Barnes just put the finishing touches on his best scoring season of the year as he averaged close to 21 points in March. But with Barea out and Nowitzki slowing down as the season wears on, he’s not getting much help from his teammates. He’ll likely look to do his best in his matchup against LeBron James, who has been a walking triple-double of late. It’ll take an unexpected performance from Barnes to outshine James and lead the Mavs to victory.
Mavs projected starting lineup
PG – Dennis Smith Jr. | SG – Dorian Finney-Smith | SF – Harrison Barnes | PF – Dwight Powell | C – Dirk Nowitzki
Cavs projected starting lineup
PG – George Hill | SG – Rodney Hood | SF – LeBron James | PF – Kevin Love | C – Larry Nance Jr.
Dennis Smith Jr. has been getting every opportunity to rack up numbers as the Mavs run down the season. The rookie has made the most of those chances in March as he averaged 18 points and six assists. He had a strong all-around game the last time he faced Cleveland (21 points, five boards, seven assists, two blocks, two steals), and should have another strong chance to repeat that stat line.
As for the Cavs, Love seems like the clear fantasy choice apart from LeBron. Love averaged 20 points and ten boards in his first four games back from a broken hand and had a huge double-double against the Mavs earlier in the year. After shaking off cobwebs against the Pelicans, he should be much closer to his best against Dallas.
This game should be the Cavs’ for the taking. They’re back to full strength, they’re at home, and they’re facing a Mavs team that doesn’t have the offense to hang with them. The Cavs are 7-3 ATS in their last ten games, and they likely improve that to 8-3 even with an 11-point spread.
The in-form Cavs crush the hapless Mavs as they stroll to a 114-99 home win.
This game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Ohio and Fox Sports Southwest – Dallas. Tip-off is at 6:00 pm Eastern.
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