Recap: Mavericks 99, Cavs 96 (Or, Welcome to history)

February 7th, 2011 by John Krolik

Overview: The Mavericks beat the Cavaliers by a final score of 99-96. The Cavaliers are now the sole owners of the longest losing streak in NBA history. Jason Terry led the Mavericks with 23 points off the bench, and made the game-clinching jumper with 35 seconds remaining.

It’s the longest losing streak ever, Charlie Brown bullets:

– Remember how I said that good offensive teams can have more trouble against the Cavs’ defense than mediocre or poor offensive teams? The beginning of this game was a good example of why. The Mavericks settled for open jumpers early in the shot clock, only to watch Peja and Dirk miss some open jumpers and some easy shots at the basket.

When the Cavs took an early 8-1 lead, Dirk Nowitzki got the ball in the mid-post, and you could hear his internal monologue: “Wenn ich in Richtung zum Ziel gegen diesen Mann gehe, in der Lage ist er nicht, mich zu stoppen. Er ist an der Verteidigung schrecklich.”

Blame Babel Fish if that’s a horrible translation, but the Mavericks basically realized that Antawn Jamison is a horrible defender who had no chance of stopping Dirk from getting to the basket and would immediately become invisible if the Mavericks put him in the pick-and-roll.

The Mavericks started exposing Jamison with Nowitzki dribble-drives and pick-and-rolls that should have forced Jamison to show above the screen or go under it to force a jumper. Jamison does neither of those things. He runs into the screen, waves his arm in the direction of the ball-handler, then jogs back towards his man as the ball-handler easily turns the corner. Every time Jamison got screened, the Cavs were playing four-on-five, and Hickson’s weak-side rotations (which do not exist) weren’t going to cover for Jamison’s poor defensive effort. The Mavs started scoring inside, got the lead by the end of the first, and never trailed again.

Offensively, the team continues to look competent. Sessions has been looking great on that end of the floor; he pushes the ball at every opportunity, and that’s when the Cavs are at their best. In the half-court, those dribble-handoff sets are starting to produce results, and Hickson is starting to look like he did at the beginning of the season again. Every now and again, the Cavs look like they know what they’re doing on offense, and that’s the highest compliment I can give to Sessions and Hickson.

Eyenga had some nice moments tonight — when he gets near the basket, he just has an extra tenth of a second or two up there and can do whatever he wants. He’s exciting to watch, although he’s still missing too many long jumpers and not drawing enough fouls.

Jamison put on a flip shot exhibition early, and it was pretty. He promptly gave all those points back by forcing jumpers and flip shots, and finished 8-23 from the field while shooting all of one free throw. Parker had a bad shooting night, Gibson and Manny were n0-shows, and Ryan Hollins managed to commit five fouls and nearly decapitate a guy in 16 minutes of play. It’s very tough to beat the Mavericks on their floor when Hickson and Sessions are the only guys who have it going.

Still, there’s something here — keep Sessions, keep Hickson, keep Eyenga, get Varejao back, look for a perimeter stopper and a guy who can guard the rim, get that top-5 pick to boost the offense, make training camp about DEFENSE DEFENSE DEFENSE, and…sigh. There’s simply too much to do. 25 straight losses.

The end of the game went like this: the Mavs played tight, the Cavs got themselves back in the game thanks to Ramon pushing the ball and Jamison making a big three and a big steal, and Jamison and Hickson made horrible decisions early in the clock that kept the Cavs from getting a good chance to tie the game or cut the lead to one. Parker had a chance at a pull-up three to tie it, the Cavs got the rebound, Moon decided his chances of passing to another shooter were better than his chances of draining a contested three, and time ran out. Game over. History made. Until next time. Every game is a chance to make history now, right?