Earl K. Sneed recaps the Mavericks' last-second loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, as Dallas' eight-game winning streak comes to an end.
DALLAS — Even Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had to admit that the NBA schedule-makers didn’t do his team a favor this week with a tough stretch of games.
With the Mavericks beginning a four-games-in-five-nights stretch on Sunday night, followed by a date against the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers to conclude the week, Cuban confessed that after taking advantage of a lighter schedule — winning eight straight and 18 of the previous 19 outings coming into the night — the team would have a much tougher road ahead.
That difficult patch began with the Memphis Grizzlies in town looking to win a season series against the Mavericks for the first time ever. And with more potential roadblocks ahead, Cuban explained to reporters his excitement to see how his team would navigate through the obstacle course of playoff contenders during the month of March.
“Coming up on this stretch starting tonight we’ll get a better picture of who we are,” Cuban said. “And we’ll have to play a lot harder, and hopefully it will turn up well.”
Perhaps Cuban saw the events of Sunday night coming, as the Mavericks (45-17) fought and clawed only to fall, 104-103, on a last-second shot by the Grizzlies’ Zach Randolph. Either way, it was not the start to the week the Mavs were hoping for.
The Mavericks would be without starting center Tyson Chandler for the second straight game, as the big man continued to rest due to a sprained right ankle. But even without Chandler it appeared that the team had caught wind of Cuban’s pre-game words, getting off to a fast start behind second-year guard Rodrigue Beaubois’ instant offense while point guard Jason Kidd passed Gary Payton for third on the league’s all-time steals list.
When Beaubois subbed out after scoring 12 quick points, the Dallas bench would take over — led by sixth man Jason Terry — upping the lead to double digits. But the period ended with a late surge by the Grizzlies (35-29), cutting the Dallas advantage to 27-21 at the end of 12 minutes of play.
Beaubois shot a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor in the quarter, swishing home both of his 3-point attempts.
“It felt good, so I just tried to push myself and tried to help the team,” Beaubois said of his play early on.
With backup lead guard J.J. Barea running the show, the Mavericks were able to once again sprint to a big lead. Meanwhile, leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki picked his spots on the offensive end. New addition Corey Brewer even jumped into the mix, scoring his first two points as a Maverick on a transition feed from Terry.
Brewer’s hustle plays would then help the Mavs open the game up even more, as Beaubois again assumed the scoring responsibilities. And with Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle subbing players frequently due to the upcoming schedule, the Dallas lead would reach as much as 18 before the team took a 55-38 advantage into the halftime break.
Ten different Mavericks scored in the first half led by Beaubois, who eclipsed his previous season-high (13) with 15 points to go along with Nowitzki’s 10 additional points. The Mavericks also outshot the Grizzlies, 51 percent to 35 percent, through two periods, thanks in large part to a 16-4 edge in fast-break points.
Looking to put the game out of reach in the third period, the Mavericks came out of the locker room aggressively. But the Mavericks’ miscues and turnovers allowed the Grizzlies to sneak back into the game, with O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley leading the Memphis charge with Rudy Gay out due to a shoulder injury.
“It was tough. We were up by 17 at the half, and then we came back and weren’t ready to play. And they took advantage of it,” Beaubois said of the third quarter.
The Memphis duo would then get help from Randolph, as the Grizzlies battled all the way back and took the lead on a 3-pointer by Shane Battier, before eventually heading into the final 12 minutes of play with a 79-78 edge, despite Terry’s best efforts.
The Mavericks surrendered a season-worst 41 points in the third quarter.
“We didn’t take the challenge at either end. And look, the whole game was the third quarter,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “You give up 41 points, turn it over six times and basically don’t take the challenge, you get what you deserve. That’s basically the bottom line … The bottom line is that our disposition wasn’t there in the third quarter the way it needed to be. It’s as simple as that.”
“They just took it to us, it’s as simple as that,” Nowitzki admitted. “We turned the ball over, gave up offensive rebounds, and 41 points is a lot to give up in one quarter, especially after a pretty decent first half.”
But it appeared that the Mavs wouldn’t be denied in the final period, as Nowitzki and star reserve Shawn Marion helped right the ship. Still, Randolph continued to battle, scoring at will inside.
“[Randolph] got more looks, more touches and he just was being more aggressive and going up stronger. He saw some advantages and he started going quicker, and we couldn’t adjust to that. He was hitting some tough shots, but he got it going … He finds ways to get the ball in there without even being above the rim,” Marion said.
With neither squad able to shed the other, the game would be determined in the final minute. And despite Terry’s late-game relentlessness, the Grizzlies had a chance to take the lead down the stretch, inbounding the ball down one with 32.3 ticks left.
The ball worked its way to Mayo, but after a Haywood rejection it dribbled itself into Battier’s hands, where the forward laid it in with 14.3 seconds remaining. That’s when Nowitzki saved his best for last, draining a vintage jumper to give the Mavs a one-point edge with just 3.1 seconds on the clock.
Then the Mavs needed just one stop.
“When you don’t respond to a challenge the way we didn’t in the third quarter, you put yourself in harm’s way. The NBA game is too long, too many things can happen,” Carlisle explained. “You leave yourself open to Haywood getting a blocked shot and it falls right into Battier’s lap, he lays it end and they take the lead. And then Dirk’s got to hit a tough shot. And last play, three seconds, anything can happen. And the magnifying glass goes on the last play, but it shouldn’t. It was the third quarter.”
After Nowitzki’s clutch shot, the Grizzlies had their chance and Randolph would deliver. Connecting on a rainbow jump shot over Haywood’s outstretched arm with just .3 seconds left, Randolph left the Mavs with very little time to respond.
“I got up as high as I could,” Haywood said of the play. “I covered up his left hand, but that’s what Zach does, he makes tough shots. He’s made a career out of that.”
“They made a good play down the stretch to win it, but it should have never come down to that,” Nowitzki added.
Terry’s desperation shot as time expired would hit the top of the glass when the buzzer sounded, bringing an end to the Mavs’ eight-game winning streak and handing the Grizzlies their first season series over Dallas.
It’s just the second time the Mavs have lost in their last 20 games, with both defeats coming on shots in the final second, including a 121-120 defeat in Denver on Feb. 10.
Terry finished with a team-high 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting and 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Nowitzki pitched in 23 points, while Beaubois (15), Marion (10) and Barea (10) made it five Mavericks in double figures. Marion also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds to record a double-double.
However, including the clinching shot, Randolph finished with a game-high 27 points, leading six Grizzlies in double figures. Conley ended the night with 17 points and 10 assists. And like Randolph, Memphis center Marc Gasol also did most of his damage inside, finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
“Zach and Gasol are a really big handful. They’re a hard matchup for us,” Marion confessed. “We’ve got to send double teams at them, because of the way they play and their size.”
Albeit in a loss, the Mavericks finished the night outshooting the Grizzlies, 51 percent to 47 percent, but Memphis held a 42-37 rebounding edge en route to claiming the season series. And despite Haywood’s season-high six blocks, the Grizzlies still finished with a 66-38 advantage in points in the paint, overcoming a 3-for-15 night from behind the 3-point arc.
“Well, they don’t shoot many threes … They’re a points in the paint team. They’ve decreased the number of threes they take. I mean, they throw the ball up and go get it," Carlisle said.
“They had a lot of offensive rebounds and we didn’t pinch in as a unit. We just didn’t do a good job of shutting the paint off. This is a team, if you look out there, there’s not a lot of 3-point shooting out there. And we allowed them to score in the paint where they feel comfortable,” Haywood explained.
Now, the Mavericks will take their show on the road, looking to rebound from Sunday night’s loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves on the second night of a back-to-back. The Mavs will try to duplicate their 100-86 home win over the Timberwolves back on Dec. 1, with Kevin Love looking to break the 50-game record he shares with Moses Malone for consecutive double-doubles.
“We’ve got four in five nights, so it’s a tough stretch for us, tough week,” Nowitzki said. “And at the end of the week we’ve got the Lakers coming in. So, it’s a tough week, a lot of challenges, but we’ve got to recover from this tomorrow and grind it out. Whatever we’ve gotta do to get this win tomorrow we’ve gotta do.”
Note: The Mavericks will look to get back on track in Minnesota against the Timberwolves on Monday night, in a game that will tip off at 7 p.m. CT. The showdown will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest.
The team will then journey to New Orleans for a Southwest Division matchup with the Hornets on Wednesday night. The two teams split a home-and-home series earlier in the season to knot the series at 1-1. That matchup will also tip off at 7 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest.
The Mavericks return to the American Airlines Center on Thursday night, hosting Carmelo Anthony and new-look New York Knicks. Tip-off for that game will be at 8:30 pm. CT, airing nationally on TNT and locally on Fox Sports Southwest. Great seats are still available and tickets can be purchased by visiting the American Airlines Center box office, logging on to Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287).
Stay connected with Dallas Mavericks inside reporter Earl K. Sneed by clicking "like" on his Facebook page or by following him on Twitter. Got a question for EKS? Send your question, along with your first name, last initial, city and state with the subject line "Ask EKS" to email@example.com, and you could be published on Mavsfastbreak.com, the Mavericks' new official blog site.
Individual game tickets are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased at the American Airlines Center box office, on Mavs.com or by calling 214-747-MAVS (6287). Get in on the action and be there for all the thrills!
Fans can visit Mavs.com or call 214.747.MAVS for more information and a complete listing of regular-season home games.