CLEVELAND — At 15-26, the Cavs are on exactly a 30-win pace halfway through the season, but coach Mike Brown and his players remain optimistic.
“We’re getting better,” Brown said Monday following a 102-97 loss to the Dallas Mavericks at Quicken Loans Arena. “We still have our ups and downs, like most teams.
“We put guys in a lot of situations where we’re expected to win, but we’re still learning ourselves. I think we’ve improved offensively. We’ve improved defensively. We’re not sitting where we want to sit record-wise, but after all the ups and downs and adding Luol (Deng), you like the direction that we’re going.”
The Cavs were coming off a 3-2 road trip and had won four of their last six games prior to Monday, but fell behind the Mavs by 24 points in the first half before a late rally fell short.
“I can feel a sense of optimism,” point guard Kyrie Irving said. “We are definitely more comfortable playing with one another.”
With four more games at The Q before they go back on the road, the Cavs have a chance to move up the standings in the horrific Eastern Conference.
“I’m encouraged,” Brown said. “I wish we were 41-0, but I do feel like we’re getting better.”
The Dallas game marked the start of a season-high five-game, nine-day homestand for the Cavs. Cleveland is 10-9 at The Q this season.
“It will be nice to sleep in our own bed and see if the home crowd can help us out,” Brown said.
“It’s like being in seventh grade and having a raucous crowd in your favor,” he added. “It gives you energy and fire.”
Still going strong
Sixteenth-year pro Dirk Nowitzki began the day averaging a team-high 21.2 points on .481 shooting from the field and .905 at the line (fourth in the league) for the Mavs. The 35-year-old was also averaging 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
“He’s been doing that for years and it could go on a while,” Brown said. “He’s never been a runner or jumper or score-over-you guy. He scores the same way now as he did 10 years ago.”
Matinee? So what
The game was a rare 1 p.m. start for the Cavs, but Brown placed no significance on that.
“It doesn’t matter if the game is at 1 or 3 or 7,” he said. “Other teams have games at this time, too.”
After getting outrebounded 24-13 by Dallas in the first half, the Cavs held a 33-15 edge on the boards in the second.
* Anderson Varejao (18 points, 21 rebounds) and Tristan Thompson (19, 10) had double-doubles for the Cavs. Varejao has 10 on the season, Thompson 20.
* Most players from both teams wore purple shoes in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.