NBA Betting Preview - Dallas Mavericks at Cleveland Cavaliers 8:00 PM EST
The road Mavericks open up as a 4-point favorite against the host Cavaliers at sportsbook.com. The total is set at 186.
The Dallas Mavericks and Cleveland Cavaliers go into the season with championship aspirations. Both teams have given doubters good reason to be skeptical.
One team was a big disappointment by not coming close to making the NBA finals, and the one that did may have only gotten worse.
On Wednesday, Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks begin a regular season during which their title hopes will remain in question regardless of how well they perform, facing LeBron James and a Cavaliers squad which failed to improve during the offseason.
The reigning league MVP Nowitzki is still frustrated by Dallas' stunning first-round playoff loss to Golden State after having one of the best regular seasons in NBA history at 67-15.
That record included three double-digit winning streaks - no team had ever done that - but it also may have caused the Mavericks to lose momentum or focus because they wrapped up the best record well before the playoffs began.
So whatever kind of win streaks or records Dallas achieves this season, questions will persist as to whether the team can carry that kind of play into the postseason. The Mavericks also closed the 2006 NBA finals by losing four straight to Miami.
The Cavaliers hold out the same kind of hope after their run to the NBA finals last year in James' fourth season. Still just 22 years old, James had a busy offseason - he hosted 'Saturday Night Live' and helped the U.S. win gold at the FIBA Americas tournament - but has gotten back to the business of pursuing a championship. He just wishes team management did the same.
Cleveland made no major acquisitions after being overmatched by San Antonio in a finals sweep, and two key members from that Eastern Conference title team - Anderson Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic - are still missing.
Varejao and Pavlovic remain overseas even with Cavaliers training camp complete. Both are holding out for better contracts and Cleveland's front office isn't budging, and it appears both players are prepared to sit out the season.
Varejao averaged 6.8 points and 6.7 rebounds off the bench, but his biggest contributions came with his energy and defensive prowess.
Pavlovic added 9.0 points per game and was one of Cleveland's best outside shooters, having made 40.5 percent from 3-point range.
James, picked in a recent poll of the league's general managers to supplant Nowitzki as MVP, joined Oscar Robertson last season as the only players to average at least 27.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists in three straight years.
Dallas still has plenty of capable scorers with Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse among others, and the roster hasn't changed much besides the additions of veteran Eddie Jones and second-round pick Nick Fazekas.
While Dallas overcame an 0-4 start last season, Cleveland opened 7-2 en route to its second straight 50-win campaign and never went through a losing streak of more than three games until the finals.
Dallas swept the two-game series with Cleveland last season despite James averaging 35.0 points, and has lost only two of the last 13 meetings.
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