(Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
Earl K. Sneed previews the Dallas Mavericks' Wednesday night home matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies as the defending champions try to avoid a fourth straight loss to their Southwest Division rival.
DALLAS – Just when the Dallas Mavericks appeared to be at full strength in time for the stretch run, the harsh reality of the condensed season set in with an injury and an illness to two core players.
Before taking the court Monday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle announced that the team will likely be without starting point guard Jason Kidd for a week due to a strained right groin. Meanwhile, the team also played on minus newcomer Lamar Odom as he battled back from a 102-degree fever and a stomach ailment.
The end result was a runaway 94-75 home loss at the hands of the Clippers as the Mavericks (30-24) slipped in the Western Conference standings, after the visiting L.A. team outperformed them for the better part of four quarters.
“We were poor in virtually every area of the game,” Carlisle said after the lopsided loss. “I’m going to look at the film before I gauge the effort. Sometimes you just get your [tails] kicked that bad. We were poor and there are no excuses — guys being out, any of that kind of stuff. All of that stuff rings hollow.”
He added: “We got beat every quarter. We got beat in virtually every statistical category. I don’t think you can play much worse. We can’t just dismiss it like it’s just a bad game. We’ve got to correct the things that are wrong and bounce back.”
Odom returned to practice Tuesday, although his status remains unknown.
Now, the Mavericks will try to bounce back against the Memphis Grizzlies in the second matchup of their three-game homestand. The Mavs will also try to avenge a 96-85 loss in Memphis on Feb. 29, catching the Grizzlies (30-22) in their third game of a back-to-back-to-back.
With Odom and Delonte West both out and leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki missing the second half of the first meeting due to lower back tightness, the Grizzlies feasted on the Dallas defense inside. Led by Marc Gasol’s 22 points and 11 rebounds, the Grizzlies finished the game outshooting the Mavs, 48.8 percent to 44.3 percent, in addition to a 42-34 rebounding advantage, a 62-52 edge in points in the paint and 15-8 margin in second-chance points.
And after those were the same departments that the Clippers dominated against the short-handed Mavs on Monday night, Carlisle and his team will try to end the trend in the first of two meetings between the two Southwest Division rivals this week.
“We’ve just got to be better,” Carlisle concluded. “We’ve got to work on it … and we’ve got to bounce back and be better. The thing is, we’ve got probably the most physical team in the league coming in here on Wednesday; that’s rebounding and that’s physical play. And we weren’t good in that area [Monday night], so that’s gotta change.”
“We’ve gotta battle a little harder and have everybody come (in the paint) and come up with the ball, so we can start our running game,” Nowitzki added.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks will also attempt to avoid becoming the Grizzlies’ fourth straight victim, after the Memphis team bounced back from a 98-89 loss in Houston last Friday with single-digit wins over Milwaukee, West-leading Oklahoma City and most recently Golden State on Tuesday night.
And with the Grizzlies just one game ahead of the defending champs for the fifth position in the conference standings, Wednesday night’s implications could prove pivotal for both teams as the Mavs try to end a three-game losing skid to the Memphis squad before meeting again on Saturday.
“It’s a tough stretch. I think we have one of the toughest stretches out of everyone in the league, looking at the opponents' winning percentages,” Nowitzki concluded. “So, we’ve got our hands full. And it’s tough without Kidd, but we’ve gotta make it happen somehow.”