Mavericks-Cavaliers Preview

The Associated PressJanuary 19, 2014

After finishing with a winning record on their longest road trip of the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers return home feeling good.

The Dallas Mavericks are looking to put an ugly performance behind them.

The Cavaliers look to build on another victory and snap their recent woes against Dallas on Monday afternoon.

Cleveland (15-25) was in high spirits after closing a 3-2 trek with Friday's 117-109 win at Denver. Kyrie Irving led five Cavaliers in double figures with 23 points and Tristan Thompson scored 20 to go along with 10 rebounds.

"Obviously it is a good road win for us and a good way to finish out our road trip. ... Give our guys credit for hanging in there," coach Mike Brown said. "We are competing defensively. I think it is just a simple formula. We are moving the basketball and trying to play for one another. We are getting a little better each time we step on the floor."

C.J. Miles also came up big with 19 points, and Luol Deng added 18 despite shooting 6 of 17.

"I think guys are excited. The biggest thing with winning really is just coming together as the game goes on," said Deng, who is averaging 23.3 points over the last three games. "We just have to keep making progress. When you're winning it's fun."

Controlling the glass could prove crucial as Cleveland goes for a fifth win in seven games. The Cavaliers are averaging 49.9 boards in their victories compared to 41.2 in their defeats.

Anderson Varejao ranks among the NBA leaders with 13.7 rebounds per game since rejoining the starting lineup Dec. 28. Thompson has pulled down 10.5 boards over an 11-game stretch.

"Our bigs did a great job of rebounding this whole entire trip," Irving said. "Tristan and (Varejao) were really competing as well as (Deng) bringing his energy. ... We need that consistently."

The Cavaliers could find success on the boards given that the Mavericks are one of the league's worst rebounding teams at 40.0 per game. Cleveland has been a bit vulnerable defensively, allowing an average of 112.2 points in its last five games, while Dallas is averaging 112.0 points in its last six.

The Mavericks (24-18) have taken five of six in this series while surrendering 93.0 points per game.

Dallas, in contrast, came out with one of its worst defensive displays of the season in Saturday's 127-111 loss to Portland.

The Mavericks allowed the Trail Blazers to shoot 51.1 percent and fell behind by as many as 38 before outscoring Portland 41-23 in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. Dallas had won four of its previous five.

"We regressed tonight. The first three quarters are beyond embarrassing," coach Rick Carlisle told the team's official website. "We weren't playing together. We weren't helping each other. Do that against a quality team ... and they're going to make you pay a heavy price."

Dirk Nowitzki, who had posted 25.4 points per game during Dallas' 4-1 run, was held to 18 while shooting 6 of 17. Shawn Marion scored three on 1 of 6 from the field.

"We've got to find a way to compete a little harder," Nowitzki said. "Everybody's just got to work a little harder."

Mavericks guard Devin Harris scored six points in 17 minutes in his season debut after working his way back from toe surgery.

Irving is averaging 23.0 points and shooting 52.6 percent in two matchups versus Dallas. Deng has compiled 23.0 per game while shooting 53.1 percent in his last three against the Mavericks.