Cavaliers upset defending NBA Champion Mavericks 91-88
BY EDDIE DILWORTH
(CLEVELAND, OH) - As reigning world champions, the Dallas Mavericks will receive every team's best shot this season. Saturday night in Quicken Loans Arena, the Cleveland Cavaliers were the latest team attempting to take down the ring bearers.
The Cavs gave the Mavericks better than their best shot, they handed Dallas (14-11) their 11th loss of the season in a 91-88 nail-biter.
"Anytime you beat the world champions, it's a great win," Cavs coach Byron Scott said after his team picked up its first win this season against a team with a winning record.
Trailing 86-83 with 3:18 to play in the fourth quarter, Antawn Jamison converted a layup to cut the Cavs deficit to one. When Kyrie Irving weaved through the Mavericks defense for a layup less than a minute later, Cleveland led 87-86.
The score remained 87-86 until Anderson Varejao drained a floater with 41 seconds to play. Varejao's bucket put the Cavs up three, but Jason Terry made two free throws with 37 seconds left to bring the Mavericks within a point, 89-88.
After Terry's free throws, the Cavs had a one-point lead and the ball was in Irving's hands with less than 30 seconds to play. There was no question who was going to take the Cavs last shot. Irving crossed over former Cavalier Delonte West and finished with a layup between several Mavericks defenders. The Cavs (9-13) led 91-88 and the Mavericks failed to tie the game in the final seconds.
"You knew they were going to come back," Scott said. "They're the champs so they're not going to just lay down. The way we finished the game, I thought was great."
The Cavs had several players produce quality outings against Dallas. Irving finished with 20 points and seven assists, while Varejao continued his All-Star level play with 17 points and 17 rebounds. Varejao had more rebounds than Dirk Nowitzki and Mavericks center Brendan Haywood had combined (13).
" He's an animal," Nowitzki said. "We knew that coming in and he's just great. He's relentless...He's got a great nose for the ball and he just keeps coming.
"(There are plays) when you think two guys have it and he just gets in there, tips it and someone comes up with it...He's very active. I don't think we're the only team he's done it to."
Cavs forward Antawn Jamison added 19 points and nine rebounds. Alonzo Gee chipped in 12 points, including seven big points in the fourth quarter.
The good vibrations weren't flowing through The Q the entire evening as the Cavs were anemic in the first quarter. Cleveland shot 6-27 (22 percent) in the first quarter and trailed 24-15 after the period ended. The Cavs trailed by as many as 15 in the first half.
"It didn't look that good in the first half, but I thought getting it into single digits going into the second half, we had a chance," Scott said.
Trailing 51-43 at halftime, Cleveland opened the third quarter on an 8-2 run to get back in the game. In the spurt, Cavs forward Omri Casspi drained a jump shot and guard Mychel Thompson splashed two 3-pointers. After Thompson's second connection from beyond the arc, the Cavs trailed 53-51.
Minutes later, the Cavs produced another surge to take their first lead since early in the contest. Trailing 59-57 with just over six minutes to play in the third quarter, Irving penetrated the Mavericks defense and finished with a layup to tie the game at 59.
When Irving dropped a crafty bounce pass in the lap of Anderson Varejao for a layup on the Cavs next possession, the Cavs had their first lead, 61-59, since leading 8-6 early in the first quarter. A Casspi 3-pointer and a Jamison layup later, Cleveland led 66-59 and The Q was roaring.
"The last thing I told the guys at halftime was (that) we had to come out aggressively on both ends," Scott said. "I said 'Just be aggressive. If you have an open shot take it, just take it with confidence.' We got going pretty good in that third quarter."
The Cavs were once again without Anthony Parker (back strain), Daniel Gibson (neck infection) and Tristan Thompson, who continues to recover from a sprained ankle.
Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd also missed the game with a strained right calf.
Nowitzki finished with a game-high 24 pints and eight rebounds. Jason Terry scored 17 points and Mavericks guard Delonte West scored 11 points and seven assists in his return to Cleveland.
"These Cleveland fans are more than fans, they're friends," West said. "They have a great owner here. They have a great nucleus of young guys...This organization is on its way."
The Cavs will be on their way to Miami for a meeting with the Heat on Tuesday.
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