Still-dangerous Mavs have potential to cool Cavs quickly

Dirk Nowitzki and the gang may be getting up there in age, but Dallas must be taken seriously.

Dec 17, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) dribbles against Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena.

David Richard / USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers (15-25) vs. Dallas Mavericks (24-18)

Venue: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland.

TV: 1 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio (Cavaliers Live pre-game at 12:30)

Projected Starters

DALLAS: C Samuel Dalembert; PF Dirk Nowitzki; SF Shawn Marion; SG Monta Ellis; PG Jose Calderon.

CLEVELAND: C Anderson Varejao; PF Tristan Thompson; SF Luol Deng; SG C.J. Miles; PG Kyrie Irving.

Pregame Notes:

* It's an MLK Jr. Day matinee and the Cavaliers are riding (mostly) high. They enter Monday fresh off a nice win at Denver that completed a 3-2 swing through the Western Conference. But the Mavericks can end any good feelings fast.

* It's true, as the Mavs are a veteran team that's been terribly underrated all season. Nowitzki is 35 years old, Marion is 35 and top reserve Vince Carter is 36. All three were key members of the title-winning team three seasons ago. All three can dismantle you in a variety of ways -- mostly just by knowing how to win.

* Nowitzki remains one of the game's most versatile players and craftiest scorers. Tristan Thompson will have his hands full. Dirk isn't as athletic as he once was, but he's athletic enough, and he can kill you with pump fakes, good shooting and an ability to draw fouls.

* Since last season, the Mavs have added Ellis, Dalembert and Calderon. Ellis is a scorer in the truest sense. He needs the ball to be effective. And considering the fact he's averaging 20 points and shooting 46 percent, it'd probably be best to keep him from getting said ball.

* Marion is still an outstanding position defender and will make Deng work for everything. It may be Deng's toughest assignment since coming to the Cavs. And let's not forget Calderon. He always gave Irving fits when Calderon was a member of the Raptors.

* On top of all this, the Mavs should be fairly motivated after getting drilled at home by the Trail Blazers on Saturday. So the Cavs can't afford to act fat and sassy over their recent improved play.

* OK, now for a dose of hope for the home team: The Cavs are averaging 111 points in their previous four wins. In the previous 20 games, they're scoring 101 per night. The Mavs gave up a whopping 127 to the Blazers on Saturday. In that game, the Mavs showed their age, succumbing to a younger team. The Cavs are the third-youngest team in the league. If they continue their trend of putting up a bunch of points, they'll have a good shot.

* This is the first of five straight home games for the Cavs, and it may be their toughest. Three of the other four (Bulls, Bucks, Pelicans) sport losing records. The Suns are the other, and while they play hard, they're starting to slide.

* The Mavs can hit shots and take care of the ball. They've buried 44 percent of their 3-pointers over the past six games, and have committed just single digits in turnovers in two of the previous three.

* Monday's game marks the return of guard Wayne Ellington, who spent half of last season with the Cavs. The Mavs picked him up in free agency. He's been so-so, averaging only 3.2 points off the bench.

* The Mavs lead the league with 9.45 steals per game.

* Thompson has compiled three straight double-doubles, giving him 19 on the season. He also went 8-of-9 from the floor vs. the Nuggets (20 points, 10 rebounds).

* Since the start of the New Year (nine games), Miles is averaging 16.4 points on 52 percent shooting. He is also a sizzling 54 percent on threes since then.