Mavericks taking late surge on road vs. Cavs

The surging Dallas Mavericks will be on the hunt for a better playoff seed when they travel to Cleveland on Sunday for the second game of a home-and-home series with the Cavaliers.

The Mavericks hit the road after an easy 110-90 win over Cleveland at Dallas on Friday. It was the Mavericks’ third straight victory and their ninth in its past 11 games. The victory also gave the Mavericks (39-28) their fourth-ever Southwest Division title and first since 2010.

Luka Doncic paced the Mavericks with 24 points despite playing just 23 minutes, with Tim Hardaway Jr. adding 20 points and Josh Richardson scoring 18.

“Obviously every win is really important, and we’ve got to see Cleveland again,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. “The division title shows that you’re one of the better teams. It’s big, and we’ll take it. It was important to try to get through this game unscathed and get ready for Sunday.”

The victory also allowed Dallas to stay in fifth place as it closes in on one of the Western Conference’s top six seeds with five regular-season games remaining. The top six teams in each conference earn automatic spots in the playoffs and avoid the play-in tournament.

The Southwest Division title would give the Mavericks the fifth seed if they end the regular season in a three-way tie with the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers.

“It’s cool, but we want to start winning games for real in a couple of weeks,” Richardson said about capturing the division crown. “That’s the big goal here. But I think it’s pretty dope.”

Dallas played without Kristaps Porzingis, who has missed five straight games and eight of the past nine with sore right knee. Maxi Kleber was out for a third consecutive contest with a sore right Achilles.

The shorthanded Cavaliers (21-46) lost their ninth consecutive game, one short of their longest skid of the season, and have lost 12 of their past 13 games. Cleveland played without Kevin Love, who was out with a left knee contusion, while point guard Darius Garland was out for the fourth consecutive game because of a sprained ankle.

Collin Sexton’s 27 points led Cleveland in Friday’s defeat, with Cedi Osman scoring 22 points, Isaac Okoro hitting for 15 points, and Jarrett Allen grabbing 12 rebounds.

The Cavaliers’ final five games to end the season are against teams in contention for at least play-in spots. Cleveland has dropped its past four games by an average of 22 points per contest.

The Cavaliers trailed 62-37 at halftime on Friday after shooting just 31 percent in the first half.

“The first half in part and the shooting let us down,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We had some open looks and didn’t knock them down.

“In the first half everything was really, really hard because we were playing in traffic and that’s the way Dallas’ defense is set,” Bickerstaff added. “You’ve got to beat them with early passes and early movement. I thought we did that in the second half much better.”

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