CLEVELAND — On just their second chance of the season, the Cavaliers again failed to record their first three-game winning streak of 2018-19.
Probable NBA Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic and the short-handed Dallas Mavericks made sure of it, posting a 111-98 victory Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Just 19, the 6-foot-7, 218-pound Doncic finished with 35 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in 33 minutes, with 28 of the point guard’s points coming in a sensational first half as the Mavs (24-28) improved to 6-21 on the road.
“The shots were going in,” said the soft-spoken Doncic, who had a number of fans on hand from his native Slovenia. “I felt great.
“I can improve everything,” he added. “At the end of the day, you can’t be satisfied.”
As a means of comparison, 20-year-old Cavs rookie point guard Collin Sexton finished with 13 points on 4-for-17 shooting, three boards and two assists in 31 minutes on yet another night it looked like he had no idea how to run an NBA offense.
That’s not the case with Doncic, who has an understanding of the game rarely found in a rookie.
“For a 19-year-old, it’s as good an all-round (offensive) game as I’ve ever seen,” said 40-year-old teammate and 21-year veteran Dirk Nowitzki, who played a scoreless nine minutes in his final appearance at The Q.
None of the players Dallas acquired in a Thursday trade with New York — Kristaps Porzingis, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee — were available to play, leaving the Mavs with a starting lineup of Harrison Barnes and Dorian Finney-Smith at forward, Maxi Kleber at center and Jalen Brunson and Doncic at guard.
It didn’t matter, as Doncic jump-started a Dallas team that also got 17 points from Barnes, 15 points, six boards and four assists from Brunson and 12 first-half points on four 3-pointers from reserve Ryan Broekhoff.
Forced to score more than usual, Doncic finished 13-for-25 from the field, 4-for-11 on 3-pointers and 5-for-7 at the line while committing just two turnovers.
“He’s a terrific player,” Cleveland coach Larry Drew said. “He plays with a confidence off the dribble or taking the 3-point shot.
“He’s a facilitator. It doesn’t look like he gets too rattled when teams pressure him.”
The Cavs (11-42) welcomed back guard David Nwaba, who had been out since Dec. 26 with a sprained ankle, but lost forward Cedi Osman to a sprained ankle in the first half, with Nwaba taking his place in the starting lineup after intermission.
Jordan Clarkson led Cleveland with 19 points, while Nwaba had 12 and Larry Nance Jr. finished with 11 points, 12 boards and three assists. Shooting guard Alec Burks had 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Defended mainly by Nwaba or Matthew Dellavedova, Doncic had just six points on 2-for-6 shooting, three boards and one assist in the third period, but the Mavs maintained an 86-80 lead going into the fourth. He also picked up his fourth foul with 1:24 left in the third.
The Cavs, though, never made a push in the fourth period, when Doncic scored just one point, his damage having already been done.
“He really set the tone for the rest of the game (in the first quarter),” Drew said. “He made some tough shots.”
The Cavs scored 31 points and shot .545 from the field in that first period — and trailed by nine.
That’s because Doncic went 7-for-9 from the field, made 4-of-5 step-back 3-pointers and scored 18 points as the Mavs made nine threes — the team record for a quarter is 10 — and put up 40 points.
“You feel like the rim is big,” Nowitzki said of his teammate’s performance. “Everything you throw up goes in. They were playing him for the step-back, then the drive opened up.”
Dallas cooled down considerably when Doncic went to the bench a minute into the second quarter, allowing Cleveland to go up five, but he returned and finished the half with 28 points, five rebounds and five assists in 18 minutes as the Mavs built a 58-55 lead.
Cavs starters scored just two more points than Doncic in the first half, when Cleveland held a 38-20 edge in points in the paint but was outscored 33-6 from behind the 3-point line. For the game, the Cavs were outscored 48-12 from behind the arc, Dallas going 16-for-39 compared to Cleveland’s 4-for-23.
“Obviously, he got off to a great start in the first quarter,” Drew said of Doncic. “Their whole team did. They made shots.”
- Power forward Kevin Love (foot) went through full-contact practices Thursday and Friday, but did not play against the Mavs and is unlikely to play Tuesday when the Cavs host Boston, Drew said.
- The NBA trade deadline is Thursday. In addition to Love, who has repeatedly been mentioned in trade rumors, swingmen Rodney Hood and Burks are possibilities to be traded. Both will be unrestricted free agents in July.
- Jaron Blossomgame, Deng Adel and Kobi Simmons started for the G League Canton Charge in a 120-77 loss to Windy City on Saturday afternoon at The Q and were with the Cavs later in the evening.
Mavs 111, Cavs 98
DALLAS (111): Barnes 7-18 0-0 17, Finney-Smith 3-7 0-0 7, Kleber 3-8 2-2 10, Doncic 13-25 5-7 35, Brunson 5-10 4-6 15, Powell 3-5 2-2 8, Nowitzki 0-0 0-0 0, Macon 0-0 0-0 0, Harris 2-2 2-2 7, Broekhoff 4-9 0-0 12. Totals 40-84 15-19 111.
CLEVELAND (98): Hood 1-6 3-4 6, Osman 5-9 0-0 10, Zizic 4-9 0-0 8, Sexton 4-17 4-4 13, Burks 3-8 4-4 11, Adel 1-3 2-2 4, Blossomgame 0-1 0-0 0, Nance Jr. 4-6 3-5 11, Simmons 0-0 0-0 0, Dellavedova 0-4 4-4 4, Clarkson 7-16 4-6 19, Nwaba 5-6 2-4 12. Totals 34-85 26-33 98.
Dallas 40 18 28 25 — 111
Cleveland 31 24 25 18 — 98
3-Point Goals—Dallas 16-39 (Broekhoff 4-8, Doncic 4-11, Barnes 3-7, Kleber 2-4, Harris 1-1, Brunson 1-4, Finney-Smith 1-4), Cleveland 4-23 (Hood 1-2, Sexton 1-3, Burks 1-5, Clarkson 1-6, Osman 0-2, Adel 0-2, Dellavedova 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Dallas 50 (Doncic 11), Cleveland 44 (Nance Jr. 12). Assists—Dallas 20 (Doncic 6), Cleveland 20 (Burks 5). Total Fouls—Dallas 26, Cleveland 22. A—19,432 (20,562).