(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Earl K. Sneed reports from Memphis and previews the Dallas Mavericks' Southwest Division matchup against the Grizzlies as the defending champs try to pull closer in the race for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings.
Preview: Mavericks (31-25) at Grizzlies (31-23)
MEMPHIS — There’s more than just Southwest Division bragging rights on the line as the Dallas Mavericks enter FedExForum on Saturday night looking to take the season series with the Memphis Grizzlies.
While the Mavericks (31-25) scratched and clawed to an eventual 99-97 overtime loss to Portland on LaMarcus Aldridge’s game-winning shot Friday night, the Grizzlies were busy sprinting to a convincing 97-82 win in Miami to snap the Heat’s 17-game home home win streak.
Now, the Mavs enter their divisional matchup a full game behind the Grizzlies (31-23) in the Western Conference standings as the two are locked in a battle for the No. 5 spot in the playoff race.
“We’ve gotta recover after this,” leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki said after posting 23 points and pulling down 14 rebounds in the loss. “This is definitely heart-breaking, but we’ve gotta get some rest and come out swinging.”
“We’ve gotta keep going,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle added after watching his team fall despite a 15-point first half lead. “I don’t know that it’s the time for amateur psychologists’ analysis. It’s a time for everybody to get in gear. We showed some signs [Friday night] in the first half, but the third quarter was tough; it took a lot out of us. We battled to get back, but expended a lot of energy and then too much was left to chance. Unfortunately, that’s how it went.”
Entering halftime with a 56-44 advantage, the Mavericks were outscored 30-10 coming out of the break. The Mavs were also just 4-for-18 from the field in the third period to trail by eight entering the fourth.
“We weren’t very good,” Nowitzki said of the play in the third. “Missed some open shots and then they got hot. I mean, [Raymond] Felton was the difference there. He shot like four or five threes in a row and we were just watching. That was a tough swing, to be up 15 going into the half and to be down eight basically going into the fourth.”
After a season-low scoring output for a quarter, the Mavericks would rally in the final period before eventually falling in overtime. This despite the fact that six Mavericks finished the night scoring in double figures.
The Mavs will now try to recapture the magic they displayed while handing the Memphis team a 95-85 defeat in Dallas on Wednesday night, when the Grizzlies stepped into the American Airlines Center for their final game of a back-to-back-to-back. And with the Grizzlies now playing their fifth game in six nights, the Mavs will again try to take advantage of their opponents’ tired legs.
In Wednesday night's win, the defending champions utilized a 44-36 margin in points in the paint to even the season series at 1-1. Led by Nowitzki’s 23 points on 10-of-18 from the field, the Mavs outshot the Grizzlies as well, 50 percent to 42.2 percent. And with both Nowitzki and backup big man Ian Mahinmi pulling down 10 boards, the Mavs also claimed a 45-40 rebounding edge.
“It was a collective effort. Mahinmi with 10, Dirk with 10, Brendan [Haywood] with five, [Shawn] Marion got a lot of big ones — he had seven. [Lamar] Odom had five. JET [Jason Terry] had four. Everybody chipped in. That’s the kind of team we are; we don’t have one guy that’s going to go and get 15 rebounds a night. It’s just not how we’re set up. The attention to detail was much better on the boards,” Carlisle concluded.
Again, the Mavericks will look for success in the paint and on the glass as they try to pull closer to the Grizzlies in the standings. But this time the team may be without Mahinmi’s activity level after the big man missed Friday night’s game due to the birth of his child.
The team is also expected to be without the services of point guard Jason Kidd, who will likely miss his fourth straight game due to a strained right groin. Meanwhile, new addition Delonte West will continue to battle a left ankle injury while filling Kidd’s void in the backcourt after stepping on a ball during Friday morning’s shootaround.
Note: The Mavericks return to action Saturday night in Memphis on the second night of a back-to-back, looking to take the season series with the Grizzlies after both won on their home floor. The game will air locally on TXA 21 at 7 p.m. CT.
The team returns to the American Airlines Center on Tuesday night when they compete against the Sacramento Kings. The two teams are tied in the season series at 1-1 after both won by double digits on their own home floor. The game will air locally on TXA 21 at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Single-game tickets are on sale and available at the American Airlines Center North Box Office, online at mavs.com, via phone by calling 214-747-MAVS or 1-800-4NBA-TIX and all Ticketmaster outlets (Fiesta Grocery Stores, Wal-Mart, Simon Mall in Garland and the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano).