DALLAS • Struggling with star forward Kevin Love sidelined by back spasms, the defending National Basketball Association (NBA) champions Cleveland Cavaliers were downed 104-97 by the lowly Dallas Mavericks on Monday.
LeBron James led the Cavaliers with 23 points on nine-of-19 shooting, while Kyrie Irving added 18 points and five assists but made six turnovers, only one fewer than the entire Mavericks' squad.
An up-tempo Dallas attack proved more than the Cavaliers could stand, a night after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder.
And, for all of James' public call last week for his front office to bring in another point guard and playmaker as his team struggle with a mid-season slump, the Mavs may have already lucked out in finding their own solution at point guard.
Rookie Yogi Ferrell, signed on a 10-day contract with injuries piling up among the Mavs, scored 19 points and played tough defence on Irving - a night after hitting two free throws to beat the San Antonio Spurs.
"I am living the dream right now," said the 23-year-old Ferrell, who was undrafted and played 10 games for the Brooklyn Nets this season before getting waived in December.
With seven wins and eight losses for Cleveland last month, January was the first calendar month in which LeBron James has a losing record (minimum 10 games played) since Feb 2006.
The Cavaliers have lost their last six games on the road on the second night of back-to-back matches.
The Mavericks seized a 100-85 edge with 4min 18sec to play on a three-pointer by Ferrell and coasted home from there.
Love, averaging 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds, stayed home for medical tests on Monday and no structural damage was found in his back, but he will also miss the Cavaliers' home game against Minnesota.
The Cavaliers were showing signs of settling down after a tumultuous eight-game stretch that included six losses, and had won two straight games before the Dallas loss.
When asked if he thought the Cavaliers would make a trade for another playmaker as he has sought, James replied, "If it happens, it happens. We've got what we got. We've got to get better every game."
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Monday that the Cavs general manager David Goffin made an unsuccessful offer for the Philadelphia 76ers' guard T.J. McConnell in exchange for Cavs reserve Jordan McRae.
The Cavaliers fell to a 32-15 win-loss record, but remain the top team in the Eastern Conference by 21/2 games over Boston, while the Mavericks rose to 18-30, third-worst in the Western Conference but only four games out of the last West play-off spot.