- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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When the Mavericks build a big lead, it might as well be accompanied with music that foreshadows something frightening happening in a horror movie.
It’s almost a certainty that there will be scream-inducing twists and turns. It’s just a matter of whether the Mavs will survive.
The Mavs made it out of Cleveland alive Monday, managing to pull out a 102-97 win over the Cavaliers after leading by as many as 24 points.
Dallas didn’t add to its disturbingly long list of big leads blown in losses this season, just barely. The Mavs have lost games in which they led by 17, 17, 18 and 19 points, so it wasn’t stunning that a 24-point lead turned into a one-possession game in the final seconds.
“It’s the NBA. It’s supposed to get hairy,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told reporters. “I’d love us to hit every shot and get every stop, but you’re on the road [and] teams battle back if they get behind. We did a good job of holding them off. It got to two and we had to get a couple of stops and score.
“Look, we got it done. That’s what it’s about. We’ll keep working to get better.”
The Mavs seem to get more than their fair share of wins in this fashion.
They nearly let a double-digit lead evaporate in the final few minutes of their previous win. The Mavs led by 10 with 2:42 remaining and had to hold their breath when Phoenix’s P.J. Tucker had a wide-open look in the corner on the final possession of Dallas’ 110-107 win.
They led by 11 at home against the New Orleans Pelicans and got some good fortune on the final possession to avoid overtime, with the NBA admitting the next day that the refs were wrong to swallow their whistles when Monta Ellis hacked Austin Rivers on a 3-point attempt.
A 21-point lead in Minnesota a few weeks ago was also a whistle away from going into overtime. The NBA also made a day-after “oops” statement about Kevin Love not getting a final-second call in the Mavs’ 100-98 win.
“That’s what the Dallas Mavericks have done lately," point guard Jose Calderon said. "Hopefully we can learn from that. We have seen this whole year that this league is getting closer and closer talent-wise. If you have a lead, you have to work at it. It doesn’t matter who you play, everybody is going to be right there.”
That’s just the way of life for the Mavs, a team that depends heavily on jump shooting and has major defensive deficiencies.
Things tend to get especially hairy for the Mavs, whose inability to protect leads might cause some premature balding for their fan base. At least their customers can't complain about a lack of entertainment.