The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Dallas Mavericks face off in a early afternoon, 1PM, tip off today. Today’s game is the first in the Cavs Black Heritage Celebration as we detailed here earlier this morning. The Cavs are coming off a 3-2 west coast road trip, and sit only 2 games back of the 8th seed in the East. The Mavs currently sit in the 8th spot in the much tougher Western Conference with a record of 24-18, a full 8 games better then the Cavs. Here are a few things to look for today:
Mavericks Scoring Vs. Cavaliers Defense
The Mavericks are currently 7th in the NBA in points per game while the Cavaliers defense is ranked 22nd in points allowed. Can the Cavs find a way to contain guards Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon and Vince Carter while giving enough attention to long time star Dirk Nowitzki? Without a defensive anchor to swat away drives the Cavs guards will have to contain the penetration. Will Mike Brown’s system of help and recover leave Dirk open at the free throw line for his patented jumper?
Looking In the Mirror
The Cavaliers can look at the Mavericks as if looking at a more veteran team in the mirror. The Mavs are a guard dominate team with precious little inside scoring. Dirk, even at 7′, does most of his damage off jumpers or show and go drives. Can the Cavs match this production? Could they fight strength with strength or decide to try to take advantage of the Mavs limitations?
Its About Deng Time
For Cavalier faithful, and many of the players, having a more then competent player at the small forward position is a new experience, a very enjoyable experience. As the Cavs return home how will the crowd respond to Luol Deng? Can Deng continue to be the glue that keep the team together during rough patches? Have Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao figured out how to play with Deng quickly, as shown in flashes on the road trip? Its exciting to see the team coming together with Deng on the floor and his maturity being a bonding factor throughout the game.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Deng’s first home game the Cavaliers should come out very energized. The Mavs, coming off a loss in Portland on Saturday could come in lethargic. Yet the veteran led Mavs will push the Cavs, especially late in the 3rd and early in the 4th. The Cavaliers youth could either implode or hold off the Mavs charge. Expect them to hold on and pull away late to put another one in the win column today.
Are you off today and get to watch the game? How do you feel about the NBA putting games on during the day on MLK’s holiday? What matchup concerns you in this game? What is your prediction for today? Tell us below in the comments section or interact with us on Twitter here.