Recap: Mavericks 104, Cavs 95 (Or, New Year, Old Rookies, Same Result)

January 2nd, 2011 by John Krolik

Overview: The short-handed Mavericks easily handled the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night. All five Dallas starters scored in double figures, and Antawn Jamison had a season-high 35 points to lead all scorers.

Losses by less than 15 points don’t really even feel like losses anymore bullets:

– Well, the Cavs definitely missed Andy on Sunday. Tyson Chandler was able to bully the Cavs in the paint, easily grabbing rebounds over Leon Powe and dropping in baskets every time he caught the ball inside. It’s been a season of comically futile basketball for the Cavs, but watching the 6-7 Powe have to try and battle Chandler on bad knees was one of the clearest illustrations yet of just how outmatched the Cavs are on a given night. But if the Cavs did have Varejao in this game, they would’ve been able to stop Chandler and Marion from scoring at will inside and had a real shot at a win. And all the Mavericks were missing was their starting small forward and a leading MVP candidate! CATCH THE FEVER!

– You’re not going to believe this, but the Cavs had no answer for the Mavericks whenever they pushed the ball in transition or made multiple passes to open three-point shooters. Just kidding. The Cavaliers are terrible at defending both of those things, and the Mavericks did a great job of pushing at every opportunity, making quick decisions with the ball, and knocking down open threes. On a related note, Jason Terry does not miss jump shots.

The Mavericks were able to punish the Cavs in the paint and on the perimeter despite the fact that none of their guards played all that well — Kidd never really got in sync with the rest of the Mavs, and Dominique Jones and J.J. Barea ran the offense with all the patience and calm of people who had been set on fire. Also, watching DeShawn Stevenson rain in open threes was kind of the final indignity, although I suppose I should just be happy he didn’t do the “I can’t feel my face” gesture.

Jamison was, indeed, feeling it in this game. He made everything he threw up, both inside and outside, and Jamison and Sessions were really the only reasons the Cavs weren’t blown out. He did spend a lot of time inside, which is the right thing to do against Brian Cardinal, and seemed to be a little more patient down there than he usually is. As always, Jamison didn’t hesitate to take an open catch-and-shoot jumper when it was there, and he made most of the ones he took. A few more of these performances, and somebody just might want Jamison at the deadline.

I’ve spent a lot of time ripping on Ramon Sessions this off-season. I am very aware of his physical and mental shortcomings as a player. That said, it’s clear to me that Ramon Sessions should be this team’s starting point guard. He is clearly the most gifted passer on the team — he’s had more perfectly timed passes that led to a dunk or layup this season than Mo or Gibson combined, and he’s better than either of them at putting pressure on the defense with his ability to penetrate.

Austin Carr was talking about how Ramon is learning to play the point during the broadcast, but when you look at his career stats, it’s clear he came into the league as a true point. He’s spent most of his time on the floor trying to be an instant offense-type guy this season, but I feel like that’s a product of his role on the team and some correctable bad habits — there’s a point guard buried underneath all those ill-advised forays to the basket. When Ramon Sessions is picking his spots on drives and finding cutters, the Cavs’ offense looks like a real live offense capable of creating high-percentage looks. It’s time to see if he can galvanize the starting unit. Again, what does the team have to lose?

Another shocking development: Hickson followed up a promising game with a miserable one. He was passive, settled for too many jumpers, got destroyed on the boards, and was invisible for most of the game. I’m not ready to call J.J. a lost cause yet, but it’s been two and a half years now, and he still doesn’t appear to be very close to putting it together.

Eyenga had a very Jamario Moon-like game — one great fast-break dunk, missed open threes, some breathtaking rebounds and almost-blocks, and some very bad defensive moments. He looked a little eager to shoot that three, but you can see just how smooth and explosive of an athlete Eyenga is. Hopefully he will not suffer Jamario’s fate. I’m cautiously optimistic.

That’s all for me tonight. Hopefully we can get a win in 2011.