The Cavs just finished up a six-game road trip, and went just 1-5 on the trip. The team could have easily gone 3-3, but had problems closing out a few games.
The team also had problems with injuries on the trip, as Anderson Varejao missed one game and Tyler Zeller missed four.
Zeller has been cleared to play against the Mavs, and Varejao has played very well since his return. The only Cav still out of the lineup is forward Luke Harangody, who had arthroscopic knee surgery on Friday and is expected to be out for six more weeks. It is not clear yet what Harangody’s role will be or how much he will play when he returns.
It is clear, though, that the Cavs need a lot more support out of their bench players, and the play of the second unit will be key against the Mavs.
So far this season, only Daniel “Boobie” Gibson and Zeller have been consistent performers off the bench, and Zeller’s absence hurt the team in the last four losses.
Someone like Samardo Samuels, Donald Sloan or Omri Casspi is going to need to step up for the Cavs and help the second unit if the team is going to knock of the Mavs.
Another key point to the game will be the match-up between Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving and Mavs point guard Darren Collison.
Collison has done well so far this year in taking over as the starting point guard for the Mavs. Standing at 6 feet tall, the UCLA product is averaging 13. 9 points and 6.4 assists per game this season. He has good quickness and is doing a nice job running the offense for the Mavs.
Also, running the offense for the Mavs is a little more difficult than usual right now, with All-Star Dirk Nowitzki sidelined with an injury. Collison and the other new players have done well in Nowitzki’s absence, and it will be interesting to see later in the season how they adapt when he returns.
Irving, meanwhile, is averaging 24.3 points and 6.5 assists per game. His play so far this season has been spectacular.
Another key match-up will be in the paint. The Mavs are very good inside, starting Elton Brand, Chris Kaman and Shawn Marion. All of those players can score and rebound, and they may be tough for the Cavs to handle.
For the Cavs, Varejao has been great and Tristan Thompson has been pretty good inside, but the Cavs will need more help out of players like Zeller, Samuels and Alonzo Gee to have success. Rebounding and points in the paint will be key to the game.
One final key point of the game is that the contest is the second night of back-to-back games for the Mavs, so they may tire out in the fourth quarter. If the Cavs can get out to a good start, or if they can try to run a lot throughout the night, they may be able to exploit the tired legs of the Mavs.