Dribbles: Cavs begin road swing with toughie in Dallas

Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs knocked off the LeBron-less Cavs back in January.

David Richard/David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Tipoff: American Airlines Center, Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

Records: Cavaliers 40-25; Mavericks 41-24.

TV: FOX Sports Ohio. Radio: WTAM 1100, 100.7 WMMS, 87.7 FM La Mega, AM 1590 WAKR (Akron)

Projected Starters

Cavaliers: C Timofey Mozgov; PF Kevin Love; SF LeBron James; SG J.R. Smith; PG Kyrie Irving.

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

Injury Report

Cavaliers: SF Shawn Marion (hip) doubtful; C Anderson Varejao (Achilles) out.

Mavericks: PG Devin Harris (hand) questionable.

Dribbles

1. This is the first of a four-game trip and it will indeed be a toughie. The Mavericks get half the buzz of the Cavs but have one more win. If the Mavs played in the East, they’d currently own the No. 2 seed. Instead, they possess the sixth seed in the West.

2. Dallas is also a veteran team that’s loaded at every position. Just check out the starting five. Any one of those guys can really hurt you. You can say the same about the Cavs — but the Mavs just have a little more experience together, and their coach (Rick Carlisle) has been around for seemingly forever.

PROGRAMMING NOTE

3. Last season, Mavs center Tyson Chandler was with the Knicks when he told reporters that Kevin Love couldn’t defend. Love was a member of the Timberwolves at the time and had a big game at Madison Square Garden. Chandler’s comments were clearly sour grapes. Love and his Cavs teammates would like to send a message to Chandler, no doubt.

4. These teams match up extremely well. I don’t expect the Mavs to get out of the rugged West — but they certainly could. And what a Finals this would be if the Cavs could do the same.

5. As I’ve written time and time again, the league is as wide open this season as any time since, like, the late 1970s. So it would be foolish to think this couldn’t be a Finals preview. Then again, you could say the same about the Raptors and Grizzlies — and a handful of other teams in both conferences.

6. The Cavs are an NBA-best 21-5 since Jan. 15. During that stretch, they lead the league in point-differential (plus-10.6), and are second in made 3-pointers (291) and third in points per game (106.6).

7. LeBron James is one assist away from surpassing Mark Price (4,206) as the Cavs’ franchise leader. Per Elias Sports Bureau, James is one of only eight players to lead a franchise in points, assists and steals — joining Kevin Garnett (Timberwolves), Michael Jordan (Bulls), Reggie Miller (Pacers), Gary Payton (Sonics/Thunder), Randy Smith (Clippers), Isiah Thomas (Pistons) and Dwyane Wade (Heat).

8. The Mavericks have committed eight or fewer turnovers in each of their past four games. This is a team that values possessions, and typically keeps games close because of it.