CLEVELAND (AP) - The Dallas Mavericks spent most of Monday afternoon playing as if they had a point to prove. They spent the final minutes barely hanging on for a narrow victory.
The Mavericks squandered nearly all of a 24-point lead before finally subduing the Cleveland Cavaliers for a 102-97 win. What appeared to be an easy day turned into a white-knuckler for Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, whose team bounced back from its worst performance of the season in a home loss to Portland on Saturday.
“We did a good job of holding them off at the end,” Carlisle said. “We got it done. That’s the bottom line.”
Trailing 100-97 with 2.8 seconds remaining, the Cavaliers were called for a five-second violation when Jarrett Jack failed to get the ball inbounds. Ellis put the game away with two free throws with 1.1 seconds left.
Carlisle called Saturday’s loss, in which the Mavericks trailed by 38 points early in the fourth quarter, “beyond embarrassing.” And while Monday’s game had too much drama, Carlisle was happy to get out of town with a win.
“It’s the NBA,” he said “It’s supposed to get hairy.”
“This was a big bounce-back win from an embarrassing loss the other day,” Ellis said. “We’ll be a great team if we continue to play like that with our back against the wall when we face adversity.”
Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 26 points. Luol Deng, acquired from Chicago on Jan. 7, scored 20 points in his first home game with the Cavaliers while Anderson Varejao had 18 points with 21 rebounds.
Dallas built a 59-35 lead late in the second quarter and maintained a double-figure lead for most of the second half before the Cavaliers rallied. Cleveland cut the lead into single figures early in the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers got the lead to 91-89 on Deng’s 3-pointer, but Irving missed a jumper and a 3-point attempt on the same possession when Cleveland had a chance to tie or take the lead.
A basket and two free throws by Ellis followed by Marion’s steal and score pushed the lead to 97-90 with 1:35 to play. Cleveland cut the lead to 98-95, but two free throws by Jose Calderon with 11.1 seconds remaining pushed the lead to five. Varejao’s basket with 5.7 left made it 100-97.
Ellis missed two free throws with 2.8 seconds left and gave Cleveland one last chance. The Cavaliers called timeout, but Carlisle put 6-foot-10 center Brandan Wright on Jack, who couldn’t get off the pass on a play that was designed to get Irving the ball.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever been that wide open before at the end of games on a situation like that,” he said. “Jack just couldn’t see him.”