(Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
Earl K. Sneed recaps the Dallas Mavericks' home win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night as the defending champs pulled into a virtual tie for the No. 5 position in the Western Conference standings.
Recap: Grizzlies 85 at Mavericks 95
DALLAS — Separated by just a game for the fifth spot in the Western Conference standings coming into Wednesday night, both the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies placed extra importance on their Southwest Division matchup.
With the Grizzlies playing for a fifth time in six days and on the last leg of a back-to-back-to-back, the Mavericks looked to close the gap between the two teams with a much-needed win in the second outing of a three-game homestand. And with forward Lamar Odom returning from a one-game absence with a stomach ailment, the Mavs also sought retribution for a 96-85 loss in Memphis on Feb. 29 before facing off with the Grizzlies again Saturday night on the road.
Looking to bounce back from Monday night’s 94-75 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Mavericks tried to avoid a fourth straight loss to Memphis in the overall series despite the absence of point guard Jason Kidd as he missed his second straight game due to a strained right groin. And even without their floor general, the Mavericks (31-24) wouldn’t fall for a fourth time, after a strong second half proved to be the difference as the defending champions moved to even in the standings and in the season series with a 95-85 victory.
“Well, we didn’t play a good game on Monday, but today was a new day. We needed to come out stronger, come out and play better,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said after the win.
“Tonight was a good team win,” new addition Delonte West added. “You know, we came out flat the last game, got in the gym yesterday, got tons of shots up, got our legs back underneath us and we responded. And that’s the mark of a championship team.”
But after the Mavs scored the first five points of the night, the Grizzlies (30-23) rallied back with a 10-2 spurt powered by the 1-2 combo of Rudy Gay and Marreese Speights. The Grizzlies then headed into the second stanza with a 23-20 edge.
Trying to provide a spark off the bench, sixth man Jason Terry’s instant offense put the Mavs ahead on the scoreboard in the early minutes of the second quarter. But the reserve duo of Gilbert Arenas and Zach Randolph would return fire, separating the two squads with an array of shots from the perimeter.
Then lead guard Mike Conley caught fire from the outside as well, lifting the Grizzlies to a lead as large as 10. But while standing in for Kidd at the point, West would power a comeback attempt to close the half. And after using an 11-3 run to climb within two, the Mavs trailed 51-47 following a score by Gay before the halftime buzzer.
“I thought our discipline and patience was good,” Carlisle said. “You get down 10 early, and the way it went Monday, it would have been easy to just let it go off a cliff, but we didn’t do that. We just stayed in there. The run to end the half was important.”
Led by Dirk Nowitzki’s 11 first-half points on 5-of-10 shooting, the Mavericks stayed in the game despite being outshot through two quarters, 53.5 percent to 51.2 percent. The Mavs also battled a 21-19 rebounding disadvantage and nine Memphis points off eight Dallas turnovers by equaling the Grizzlies with 22 points in the paint.
After finishing the first half strong, West and Nowitzki opened the third period with five straight points to briefly take the lead. Meanwhile, the Dallas defense picked up its intensity while the offense utilized stellar ball movement to free up open shots.
“Ball movement is such a big part of who we are and who we’ve been. When it doesn’t move, it’s hard because the whole defense loads up on whoever’s got it. It’s something we’ve worked on the last couple of days and we did better tonight. But I still think we’ve got another level we can get to with that, so we’re going to keep working on it,” Carlisle explained.
“I think we’re best when we move the ball,” Nowitzki echoed. “We talked about it, against the Clippers we were a little stagnant — a lot of dribbling the ball. We know that’s really not our game. We don’t have a lot of great one-on-one players. That’s not our game. Our game is to move it, swing it, look for the open guy, drive it, swing it again and just keep the ball hopping. And I thought we did a better job there in the second half of really looking for the open guy and that was fun to play.”
Still, the visiting Grizzlies wouldn’t stumble just yet. And after Memphis righted the ship with a collective effort, the Mavericks found themselves done two, 68-66, entering the fourth.
Things got worse before they got better in the final period after Quincy Pondexter’s and-1 putback between Nowitzki and Odom put the Mavs down five with 10:00 remaining. But the Mavs immediately responded with 10 unanswered points to regain the upper hand, surging ahead 78-73 after Shawn Marion’s runner with 7:07 left on the clock.
Terry then tried to provide the final fireworks, draining a three and then feeding Marion on the break for a score. A steal and breakaway slam by Marion then put the Mavs up 89-77 with 3:01 still on the clock to complete a 21-2 run. But the Mavs didn’t put a spectacular stamp on the win until after Rodrigue Beaubois saved the ball from going into the seats, leading to Terry’s transition feed to Marion for the slam to close the book on the victory inside the final minute.
“I think it was good there in the second half — fought for each other, got some stops,” Nowitzki said. “Obviously, it helped that they played three games in three nights. They looked a little slow there in the second half and we held them to 34 points and that was definitely the key to the win.”
Leading the way for the Mavs was Nowitzki, who finished with 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds.
Marion added 16 points, Terry pitched in 15 points off the bench and West made it four Mavericks in double figures with 14 points on 6-of-7 from the field.
Off the bench, O.J. Mayo led three Grizzlies in double figures with 17 points. But the Mavs finished the night outshooting the Grizzlies, 50 percent to 42.2 percent. And behind Nowitzki and backup big man Ian Mahinmi’s season-high tying 10 rebounds, the Mavs also claimed a 45-40 rebounding edge in addition to a 44-36 margin in points in the paint.
“It was a collective effort,” Carlisle said of the work on the glass. “Mahinmi with 10, Dirk with 10, Brendan [Haywood] with five, Marion got a lot of big ones — he had seven. Odom had five. JET [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.
The Mavericks will now return to the practice court Thursday before picking action back up at the American Airlines Center on Friday night when they conclude their homestand against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Mavericks lead the season series 1-0 after a 97-94 double-overtime home win on Feb. 11. That game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
“It was a good bounce back for us,” Terry concluded. “Obviously, we’re fighting with all of these teams for playoff positioning and this was a crucial game for us, as are all of them. It was a good win tonight, but our focus now shifts to Portland. … Every game down the stretch is critical. You can win two or lose two, either way. And that can make a big difference (as to) where you’re going to be in the playoffs or not in the playoffs at all. Knowing that and knowing we’re a championship-caliber team, we just have to continue to grind it out.”
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).