Apparently the All-Star layoff has cooled down the Dallas Mavericks.
After entering the break as the league’s hottest team, the Mavericks hope to bounce back from a loss in their first game back when they visit the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Dallas won 13 of 16 games entering the break, the best mark in the league over that span.
The Mavericks, however, shot 40 percent in a 109-92 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday. Dallas’ reserves were outscored 53-29.
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 24 points, while Michael Finley, who helped a third-quarter spurt for Dallas, finished with 15. Antawn Jamison and Josh Howard each had 10 points and Howard pulled down 11 rebounds.
The Mavericks hit only two of 11 3-pointers and have made only 34-of-120 from outside the arc over the past seven games.
Cleveland hopes the All-Star break has helped LeBron James. The Cavaliers’ rookie star returned from the break surprisingly refreshed.
James, who participated in preliminary events to the All-Star game in Los Angeles, says he is ready to lead Cleveland’s playoff push. The No. 1 overall draft pick is averaging 20.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists.
“We’ve got a job to do now,” he said. “We got 29 games left and I’m bringing all my energy. Every little piece of energy I got, I’ve got to bring to these last 29 games.”
James’ stats have trailed off a bit recently, possibly because of fatigue. He didn’t get as much rest in Los Angeles as he would have liked.
With roughly two months left in the season, the Cavaliers are where no one thought they’d be—in the playoff chase.
The Cavs will begin the season’s unofficial second half just 2 1/2 games out of the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and coach Paul Silas thinks his club has a realistic chance at making the postseason.
“We have some tough games,” Silas said. “But we’re still there. We’ve still got a shot.”
Cleveland went into the break following a 105-85 loss to the New Jersey Nets on Feb. 11.
STANDINGS (through Feb. 16): Mavericks - 3rd place, 4 GB, Midwest Division. Cavaliers - 6th place, 19 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Mavericks - Nowitzki, 21.5 ppg; Walker, 8.9 rpg; Nash, 8.2 apg. Cavaliers - James, 20.4 ppg and 5.8 apg; Boozer, 11.0 rpg.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Mavericks, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: March 18; Mavericks, 114-93. At Dallas, Nash came back from a one-point first half and scored 18 in the third quarter. He finished with 21 points.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Mavericks - 10-15 on the road; Cavaliers - 14-12 at home.