Cleveland Cavaliers (-3.5, 201.5 o/u) at Dallas Mavericks
It’s not a rematch of the 2011 NBA finals, per se, but the Cleveland Cavaliers (40-25, 16-16 away) tilt with the Dallas Mavericks (41-24, 21-10 home) tonight brings back bitter memories for LeBron James.
Nearly four years after James and the Miami Heat lost to the Mavericks in the NBA Finals, the future Hall of Famer still thinks about his lackluster play that cost his team the championship.
“It brings back memories for sure,” James said. “Memories that I try to forget, that I will probably never be able to forget. But it’s built me into who I am today.”
Today, James is leading his hometown Cavs on a surge into the playoffs. The team has won seven of its last ten and is coming off a stretch of four games in five days, which saw them go 3-1. Most recently, Cleveland downed the Suns, 89-79, with a tremendous defensive effort.
But the team remains in a pitched battle with Chicago for top spot in the Central Division, currently sitting just half a game up on the Bulls, and they know how much work is left to be done.
“We came in and got great work in,” said James of the team’s Monday practice. “We have no room to waste an opportunity and today we didn’t do that. We got better, so this is great for us.”
As for the Mavs, leader Dirk Nowitzki is showing signs of a mid-season slump scoring only 12.8 PPG and shooting 39.9-percent over his last 11 contests. Also not playing up to his normal level is Monta Ellis (12.5 PPG on 27.5-percent shooting over the last four games).
“Sometimes I can be my own enemy when I go to the basket and don’t get the foul,” said Ellis. “Then I get frustrated and lose my game a little bit. Tonight the biggest thing for me was just to get back to being aggressive, and if they call it, they call it. If they don’t, I continue to attack.”
The scoring slump for the Mavs two key offensive players has the team mired in a slump of its own, winning just two of the last six. Dallas was able to snap a two-game losing streak on the weekend, though, with a 100-93 win over the Lakers. While Nowitzki continued to struggle in that game, scoring just 12 points, Ellis showed signs of life, dropping 31 on the lowly Lakers and hitting 5/7 from three.
Looking at the trends for tonight’s game, the Mavs don’t fair well as an ATS underdog, going just 5-11 on the year; however, the Cavs are 10-12 ATS as a road favorite. The Mavs are also healthy again and will be the more rested team. That’s why taking the Mavs and the points (+3.5) is the play.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison from Baltimore, USA (20090930-6029) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)