(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Earl K. Sneed reports from Memphis and recaps the Dallas Mavericks' road loss to the Grizzlies as the defending champions slipped further in the playoff race.
Recap: Mavericks 89 at Grizzlies 94
MEMPHIS — After suffering a heart-breaking loss on a last-second shot in overtime Friday night, the Dallas Mavericks had little time to wallow in their own pity.
Falling to a 99-97 defeat to Portland on LaMarcus Aldridge’s game-winning jumper, the Mavericks finished their homestand with a 1-2 mark. Just 24 hours later, the Mavs looked to duplicate their lone victory from the homestand, a 95-85 win over Memphis on Wednesday night, as the defending champions stepped into FedExForum attempting to close the one-game gap between themselves and the Grizzlies for the fifth position in the Western Conference playoff race.
“Last night was a tough night and certainly disappointing, but there’s been a lot of quick turnaround games and this group’s been through a lot of them,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle admitted before the Southwest Division matchup. “We’ve gotta bounce back quickly. And our history is we’ve been able to put those things behind us and play. Tonight, we’re gonna have to do that.”
But again the Mavs would take the court short-handed with starting point guard Jason Kidd missing his fourth straight game with a strained right groin and backup big man Ian Mahinmi out for a second straight outing due to the birth of his child.
And unlike the coach’s pregame words predicted, the Mavericks (31-26) wouldn’t be able to rebound from the tough loss the night before, falling for a second straight night after a 94-89 defeat.
Facing some early adversity after starting center Brendan Haywood was called for a quick technical foul for pushing Quincy Pondexter, the Mavericks would fall into an 8-0 hole out of the gate. Meanwhile, both teams would struggle to find the bottom of the net while playing on the second night of a back-to-back.
Still, the Grizzlies (32-23) would manage to open up a double-digit lead as large as 20 while the Mavs began the game just 2-of-15 from the field. And with the Mavs also committing six turnovers in the opening quarter, Zach Randolph’s buzzer-beating three brought a dreadful period to a close with the defending champs down 29-10.
“First quarter, we had our share of good shots that just didn’t go down,” Carlisle explained. “And at one point we were shooting under 10 percent. But guys kept battling.”
“We dug ourselves a very big hole, but I think we were playing pretty good defense at first. It was just that we couldn’t hit any shots. Everything that could go wrong went wrong, but we hung in there and fought back,” forward Shawn Marion added.
Using a scrambling defense and the instant transition offense of reserve guard Rodrigue Beaubois and backup big man Brandan Wright, the Mavs tried to chip away at their deficit with the first eight points of the second stanza. Leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki then broke into the scoring with a three after a 0-of-6 start to the night, before deferring to sixth man Jason Terry’s perimeter shooting just a night after the star reserve moved into fifth place ahead of ex-Maverick Peja Stojakovic on the all-time 3-pointers list.
But despite Terry’s three swishes from behind the arc in the period, the Mavs never got closer than nine down. The two teams then entered the halftime intermission with the Grizzlies holding a 50-39 advantage.
Even with Terry and Wright combining to score 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting off the bench, the Mavericks were outshot through two quarters, 44.2 percent to 40 percent. The Grizzlies also held a 28-18 edge in points in the paint at the midway mark while scoring 11 points on Dallas’ 10 turnovers to overcome the Mavs’ 23-17 rebounding margin.
Looking for a spark coming out of the locker room for the second half, Carlisle inserted Wright into the first unit in place of Haywood at the five spot. The strategy would work as Wright’s tip-in closed the gap to six, 59-53, with 7:47 left in the third.
“We have to take our hats off to ourselves; we played hard, we got back into the game and we had an opportunity to win,” Wright explained.
“We talked about it,” Nowitzki added. “We were still right there even though it wasn’t pretty. We competed, played hard and hung around.”
The visiting team then crept even closer as eight-time All-Star Vince Carter looked to assertive himself, draining a three to inch the Mavs to within one. But the Grizzlies immediately answered with seven straight points to extend the lead, before taking a 72-67 edge into the game’s final 12 minutes.
“Really, I liked the way we responded after that start. We fought back in a tough place to play and gave ourselves a chance at the end,” Nowitzki continued.
With the game anyone’s for the taking, Nowitzki and Zach Randolph exchanged scores while trying to will their teams to a victory. Meanwhile, the Mavericks had to deal with Gilbert Arenas’ end-to-end play as the Grizzlies tried to pull away.
Arenas’ three then prompted Carlisle to call timeout with the coach’s team down 86-78 and just 6:49 remaining. However, Marion’s score at the other end made it an 88-81 game with 5:14 still on the clock to rally. Then Rudy Gay and Nowitzki traded hoops, before the Mavs’ costly turnovers halted their comeback attempt down the stretch.
And with Randolph’s 2-for-2 trip at the foul line icing the game with 15.8 seconds left to go up five, the Mavericks fell to defeat while Memphis moved two games ahead of the reigning title holders in the standings.
Leading the way for the Mavs was Nowitzki, who finished with 17 points on 5-of-16 from the field to go with eight rebounds.
Off the bench, Wright pulled down six rebounds to go with his 16 points back in the state where he led his high school to four straight state titles. Carter added 14 points and Terry and Marion both finished with 12 points.
The Mavs also battled back from their first quarter woes to outshoot the Grizzlies, 46.6 percent to 38.8 percent, in addition to a 42-37 rebounding advantage. The two teams both scored 40 points in the paint.
“I mean, we defended and rebounded the whole game, which we had to do, and we actually outrebounded these guys again, which is saying something. So, it’s a disappointing loss, because it’s an important game, but we battled. We just couldn’t quite get over the hump,” Carlisle concluded.
Gay led four Grizzlies in double figures with 25 points on 9-of-15 from the field and 3-of-5 from three. Meanwhile, Randolph recorded a double-double off the bench with 15 points and 11 rebounds. The Grizzlies also overcame the 19 points Dallas scored off 11 Memphis turnovers, scoring 17 points on the Mavs’ 17 giveaways.
“We made a game of it, but the turnovers just killed us,” Marion concluded.
The Mavericks will now return home to the American Airlines Center on Tuesday night when they compete against the Sacramento Kings before beginning a four-game road trip. 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.
“Have a good practice Monday and get ready for Tuesday,” Carlisle said while looking ahead. “Every game now is going to be of even more significant importance and we know that. We don’t need to overstate it.”
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).