The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t coming into their showdown with the best team in the league with the kind of momentum they had hoped for.
The Cavaliers will look to bounce back from their first loss in nine games when they host the Dallas Mavericks (55-11) on Wednesday night.
Cleveland’s longest winning streak of the season came ended Tuesday night with a 108-100 overtime loss in Charlotte. The Cavaliers (41-26) fell 2 1/2 games behind Eastern Conference-leading Detroit, which routed Philadelphia 96-75.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win at the end of regulation, and I didn’t come through for the team,” said LeBron James, who scored 30 of his 37 points after halftime but missed a runner in the lane and a 3-pointer in the closing seconds. “We had a lot of unforced errors at the end of the game and we paid for it.”
The Cavaliers will need a better effort against the Mavericks, who reached the 55-win mark for the third straight season with Tuesday’s 92-77 win over the New York Knicks. Dallas has won three straight after back-to-back losses for first time since starting 0-4.
“I think offensively we’re explosive. I think we can score with the best of them,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 24 points. “I think even though we’re a slower team now than we used to be with (former coach Don Nelson), defensive-minded, we still have a lot of offense out there.”
Josh Howard also scored 24 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for Dallas, which owns a 4 1/2-game lead over second-place Phoenix in the Western Conference. The Mavericks are 2-0 on a six-game road trip that also will have them play Boston, Atlanta and New Orleans.
The Mavericks are on pace to easily break the franchise record of 60 victories set in 2002-03 and matched last season before they lost the NBA finals to Miami in six games.
“The win thing has never been a situation for me. We are just trying to get better,” Howard said. “We know what happened last year in the finals. That was a big blow to us. We are using that as confidence and motivation to get where we need to be this year.”
The Cavaliers have split their last four games with the Mavericks after dropping eight straight in the series. Cleveland, though, lost in the first meeting of the season, falling 95-92 on March 1 in Dallas despite 39 points from James. Nowitzki had 24 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in the win.
James, who has averaged 39.5 points in his last four games against Dallas, missed two free throws and a pair of 3-pointers in the final 13.7 seconds. The win was the 14th in the Mavericks’ franchise-record 17-game winning streak.
“LeBron is tough to guard - so strong, so talented,” Dallas swingman Jerry Stackhouse said. “We all had an emphasis on trying to slow him down and he still almost had 40.”
Cavaliers guard Larry Hughes, who missed that game with the flu, had 17 points Tuesday against the Bobcats, who own the second-worst record in the East. Cleveland had been outscoring its opponents by an average of 12.6 points during its winning streak.
“You understand you gave the game away, but at the same time you don’t want to start a losing streak,” he said.