DALLAS -- When Dallas faced the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Jan. 20, the Mavericks had to scramble a lot before hanging on for a 102-97 victory.
The Mavs led that game 59-35 with 50 seconds left before halftime following a 3-pointer by rookie Shane Larkin. But a 3-pointer by Luol Deng got Cleveland within 91-89 with 3:25 remaining in the game before the Mavs held off the pesky Cavs at the end.
That game taught the Mavs (27-21) a valuable lesson as they're set to face the Cavs (16-31) again tonight at 7:30 at American Airline Center. Forward Vince Carter said it's more about the Mavs being consistent and not relaxing once they get a huge lead.
"I think we did what we wanted to do, we acccomplished what we wanted to do in coming out and just hit first and being aggressive,'' Carter said after Monday morning's shootaround. "But I think we kind of were just content with the lead and in the second half they came out like gangbusters and they really hit us in the mouth.
"I think we did a great job of just showing that we can really take the punches and finish off the game. But when you have a team like that down big on the road we have to close the game out -- and we know that.''
The Mavs have lost five games this year when they've held at least a 17-point lead. The Cavs almost made it six games.
None of this heart-stopping drama, though, comes as a surprise to coach Rick Carlisle.
"We shouldn't have any letdowns against anybody,'' Carlisle said. "Our games have just all been hard and they're going to continue to be hard.
"We're becoming more and more of a league of parity. Everybody's spending the same amount of money on players, so we're getting a lot of close games.''
-- Dwain Price
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