Cavaliers-Mavericks pregame dribbles

Without LeBron, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving will need to step up against tough opponents like the Mavericks.

David Richard/David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Tipoff: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, 1 p.m.

Records: Cavaliers 19-14; Mavericks 24-10.

TV: FOX Sports Ohio (Cavaliers Live pregame at 12:30 p.m.). Radio: WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM; Cavaliers Radio Network.

Projected Starters

Mavericks: C Tyson Chandler; PF Dirk Nowitzki; SF Chandler Parsons; SG Monta Ellis; PG Rajon Rondo.

Cavaliers: C Tristan Thompson; PF Kevin Love; SF Mike Miller; SG Matthew Dellavedova; PG Kyrie Irving.

Injury Report

Cavaliers: SF LeBron James (knee/back) out; C Anderson Varejao (Achilles) out.

Gameday Live: Cavs vs. Mavs

Mavericks: None to report.

Dribbles

1. Life without LeBron marches on for the Cavaliers, and now the real tests begin. The Mavericks are a legit Finals contender. Without LeBron, the Cavs probably are not. But somehow, some way the Cavs need to win games like these.

2. Things aren’t nearly as bad for the Cavs, of course, as a lot of people are saying. The Spurs are just 21-14 (compared to 19-14 for the Cavs). And the Spurs won the title last season and went to the Finals the year before that. And unlike the Cavs, the Spurs have been together forever. The Cavs are a mostly new team.

3. The point is, no one wins a championship in January. But it’s still important for the Cavs to play well (and mostly win) in the two weeks LeBron is expected to miss. With Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, there’s no reason they can’t.

4. As for the Mavs … well, they seem even better than before. Since acquiring Rajon Rondo in a trade with the Celtics, the Mavs are 5-2. They have won four straight and seven of nine.

5. Rondo caused a stir late last week when he said he didn’t always defend while with the Celtics. It was a weird thing to admit. But at least he was honest. When it comes to NBA defense, lot of guys are in denial.

6. The Mavericks lead the league in scoring at 109.9 points per game. They are also second in field-goal percentage at 47.8 percent. With Ellis, Nowitzki and Parsons, they have no shortage of guys who can put the ball in the basket. They also are hoping Rondo will score more than he did with the Celtics. Their bench can be an issue, but so far, so good for Dallas.