Two streaks alive as Mavs extend Cavs' woes

BY foxsports • February 7, 2011

By Mike Piellucci
FOXSportsSouthwest.com

After Cleveland set the single-season record for consecutive losses on Saturday, you would be forgiven for assuming that the hapless Cavaliers couldn't sink any lower.

You would also be wrong.

On Monday night, the Mavericks edged Cleveland 99-96 to earn their league-high ninths straight victory while in the process dealing the Cavs an NBA-record 25th straight defeat that broke their own mark set over the course of two seasons in 1982.

Believe it or not, Cleveland started the season treading water at 7-9 in spite of fielding the same ragtag supporting that offered LeBron James precious little help on the offensive end only without James to perform his Superman act after relocating his abilities to the greater Miami area.

After the 16-game mark, though, reality set in.

The punch-less Cavs were exposed as perhaps the least-talented team in the NBA, and that was before stalwarts Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao succumbed to injuries that shelved the former indefinitely and the latter for the season. Now, surrounding Antawn Jamison and J.J. Hickson with a hodge-podge of journeyman, second-rounders, and D-League alumni, Cleveland is knee-deep in its odyssey of indignity with precious little light at the end of the tunnel.

Case in point, the numbers behind the team's race to the bottom may, in fact, overshadow the milestone itself.

Entering Monday's game, the Cavs' then 24-game losing streak was bolstered by 34 total losses in its past 35 contests, with the lone win coming on December 18th. In that stretch, the Cavs have been outscored 108.7-94.4 including 14 double-digit losses.

Yet with 60% of those losses coming by single digits, Cleveland has given more than a few teams a run for their money and Monday was indicative of such an effort.

There was plenty to like about the Cavs' performance, which depending on your perspective either makes things more palatable or more painful.

They took advantage of a Mavs team that played much of the game flat by turning up the jets on the fast break with a whopping 35 points in transition.

They played with a defensive intensity that has too often gone missing without Varejao out of action, limiting the red-hot Mavs to 99 points on a paltry 41% shooting from the field including a putrid 31.8% from beyond the arc.

They continuously rallied back from double-digit deficits when a much deeper and much better Mavs team had them on the ropes.

They even discovered a seldom-seen offensive balance, with four of their starters notching 15 or more points, including the young backcourt of Christian Eyenga and Ramon Sessions going for 34, or some 15 points over their combined average.

Make no mistake; they still lost, they still are on the wrong side of 35 of their past 36 games, and they're still 0-for-2011 in the win column. But a team that had every excuse to quit didn't, and an NBA featherweight turned a certain knockout into a close decision with a heavyweight.

Of course, for as many good things as Cleveland did, there were plenty more that caused them to self-destruct. In the fourth quarter alone, there was a veritable grab bag of boneheaded decisions and shoddy defense that allowed Dallas to stay ahead every time the Cavs looked to have regained their footing.

With the Mavs clinging to a 80-79 and momentum swinging Cleveland's direction, the hyper-athletic, 7'0'' Ryan Hollins somehow lost a jump ball to 33-year-old, 6'2'' Jason Terry, followed by Terry going on a personal 4-0 run en route to Cavs coach Byron Scott frantically calling timeout.

Roughly a minute later, J.J. Barea was giving up roughly a foot in height when attempting to guard the 6'9" Jamison yet instead of looking Jamison's direction, Cavs guard Anthony Parker burned down the clock on an isolation play at the top of the key before foisting an off-balance jumper that clanged off the rim.

The resulting 7-2 Mavs run seemingly put the game out of reach before a furious rally somehow gave Cleveland the ball down three with a chance to tie after stripping Dirk Nowitzki. Yet with nine seconds on the clock, they missed their first game-tying attempt and instead of taking a second, Jamario Moon played hot potato and frantically dumped it off to Jamison, who couldn't get a shot off before time expired.

Nothing could better symbolize the larger stretch which Cleveland endured, a malaise in which they remarkably still fight through each game yet too often exacerbate through faults of their own.

The Mavs, meanwhile, are trending in the opposite direction by adding another victory to their league-high nine-game winning streak that has slingshot them back into second place in the West after sinking as low as sixth during Nowitzki's spell on the sidelines and early struggle to strip off the rust.

The star forward was hardly seen in this one though, logging just 31 minutes scoring a dozen points on 5-of-11 shooting in a game in which his most notable moment


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