Recap: Mavs succumb to Grizzlies' second-half pressure
Recap: Mavericks 84 at Grizzlies 90
Mavs succumb to Grizzlies' second-half pressure
MEMPHIS — There wasn’t much 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki didn’t do right during the Dallas Mavericks’ consecutive home losses to the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks before venturing out for the start of a three-game road trip.
Scoring a season-high 30 points and grabbing down 13 rebounds in Sunday’s 103-99 loss to the Lakers, Nowitzki came back two nights later to score 21 points and snatch down 20 rebounds while his team fell to a 95-90 defeat at the hands of the Bucks. The 7-footer then openly admitted his frustration to members of the media, expressing that he felt the need to be perfect in order to help lead the Mavs to a victory.
The Mavs then headed to Memphis to begin their road trip against a Grizzlies team that entered the night on a seven-game winning streak as coach Rick Carlisle made it clear that Nowitzki wasn’t the only one that needed to play a perfect 48 minutes in order to fight back into playoff contention, hoping to surround his franchise player with enough support to begin the three-game voyage on a high note.
“I feel the same. I feel we all have to be perfect. You know, I think that’s just where we are,” Carlisle said. “The margin for error is thin with our team and they’ve gotten thinner throughout the league. You know, rosters are more even, talent is more even, and so your level of concentration, focus and then being able to make the plays is extremely important. But I like the fact that a guy like Dirk steps up and says, ‘You know, look, I’ve got to be better.’ I mean, we’ve all got to be better. That’s the nature of the beast we’re dealing with, and we’re going to work towards that end.”
Wednesday night, however, Carlisle’s team played just about a perfect first quarter before jumping out to a lead as large as 25 in the first half. Still, with a second-half collapse coming after getting off to such a hot start, the Mavericks (25-32) would fall to their third straight loss following a 90-84 defeat.
Carlisle opened the night by making a change in his starting lineup, inserting center Chris Kaman into the first unit for the first time since Jan. 20 ahead of rookie big man Bernard James. The move would pay immediate dividends as the Mavericks opened the game on a 10-0 run just 24 hours after beginning Tuesday night’s loss with an 11-0 spurt.
This time, however, the Mavs would keep the pressure on for the entire period, leading by much as 19 before taking a 38-19 advantage into the second stanza led by four-time All-Star Shawn Marion’s 10 points.
Making up for a 0-for-8 night in the loss to the Bucks, sixth man Vince Carter immediately made amends for his struggles the night before by providing a spark off the Dallas bench in the second quarter. Meanwhile, the Dallas defense continued to hold its own after limiting the Grizzlies (38-18) to 7-of-25 shooting in the first quarter.
But after leading by as much as 25, the Mavs’ carelessness with the ball and turnover woes would allow the Grizzlies to slowly chip away at their deficit, trimming Dallas’ advantage to 55-42 entering the halftime break.
Committing eight of their 10 first-half turnovers in the second period, the Mavericks still managed to hold a double-digit lead at the midway mark thanks to 59 percent shooting compared to the Grizzlies’ 32.5 percent. Marion’s 14 points heading into the intermission on 7-of-10 shooting and a 28-10 advantage in points in the paint also helped the Mavs overcome 11 points off their giveaways.
“They turned up their defensive pressure and we didn’t respond well to it,” Carlisle confessed. “You know, we had four turnovers at the end of the first half that cut into our lead and gave them the momentum, and then we did a poor job starting the third quarter, obviously. … You know, they’re a great defensive team and at halftime we talked about it — that they were going to turn up the pressure and we needed to step up and respond to it and attack. And we just didn’t do a good job with it.”
Continuing their turnover-prone play into the second half, the Mavs would helplessly watch as the Grizzlies opened the third with a 20-0 run to take the lead, forcing a timeout by Carlisle with 5:02 left in the period.
“They stepped up the pressure,” Nowitzki echoed. “They started picking us up and really got into us, and we didn’t really have much going from that point on. They got going and were all over us. That really sums it up. They turned the pressure up and that was the game.”
“I think they wanted it a little more than us,” Carter added. “We got comfortable in the last five minutes going into the half. They started to make their run, got us to turning the ball over and we went into the half up 13. And all of a sudden, you know, I think we wanted to come out and gain the momentum back, but instead we couldn’t really hit shots. I think we defended well and we still got some shots that we wanted, but like I said, I think it’s just more magnified when they were going on a run and we were getting shots up that we wanted and we were not making them, on top of us not getting any defensive stops as well. I think once they got rolling in that third quarter it was just tough for us.”
Ex-Grizzlie O.J. Mayo then scored the Mavs’ first point in the period on a 1-of-2 trip to the free throw line with 3:51 on the clock, before Mike James connected on the team’s first made field goal with 3:01 left in the quarter after 11 straight misses. And after scoring a season low and equaling a league low for any quarter with just five points in the period, the Mavericks looked up to a 66-60 disadvantage heading into the final 12 minutes of play.
“That’s crazy. I didn’t realize until the quarter was over that we only scored five points after that happened, but that tells you how aggressive they were in making sure that we didn’t get anything,” Marion said as the Mavs avoided the NBA record set by the Dallas franchise with just a two-point third quarter against the Lakers back on April 6, 1997.
“Look, it’s a long game. We outscored them by 19 in the first quarter and they outscored us by 19 in the third. Yeah, scoring only five points is not good, but it’s a 48-minute game. I knew we were going to hang in, we did, and we were just unable to make enough plays to get over the hump,” Carlisle added.
After the sluggish third, the Mavs tried to recollect themselves for a fourth-quarter resurgence, but Grizzlies big man Darrell Arthur’s rejection on Mavs point guard Darren Collison’s transition attempt kept the visitors at a safe distance with the score at 78-72 with 6:31 left to play.
Still, the Mavs continued to battle, inching within four on Marion’s score in the lane. James followed that with a fadeaway over Marc Gasol to keep the Mavs within an arm’s reach before backup big man Elton Brand’s bank-in inside brought the Mavs within two, 80-78, shortly ahead of Brand being assessed a technical for arguing his fourth foul of the night with 2:28 remaining.
Free throws by Mike Conley and Gasol widened the margin on the scoreboard before Zach Randolph’s 2-for-2 trip to the charity stripe with 1:28 left to put the Grizzlies up 85-78. Randolph then answered Mayo’s score at the other end with a tip-in, prompting a Carlisle timeout down seven with 53.8 seconds left for a miracle comeback.
That's when Tony Allen’s slam with 39.6 seconds left closed the door on the Mavs for good, sending them off the Grizzlies’ floor with a third straight defeat as the two teams played the clock out.
Leading four Mavs in double figures with 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting, Marion finished with eight rebounds as well. Brand added 12 points off the bench, while Mayo pitched in 11 points on 5 of 13 from the field against his former team. Nowitzki, meanwhile, finished 4 of 11 from the floor for 10 points.
Randolph led the Grizzlies with 22 points and 10 rebounds while Gasol added 21 points and 12 boards inside. The Grizzlies also overcame 37.7 percent shooting compared to the Mavs’ 43.4 percent, scoring 23 points off of Dallas’ 21 turnovers.
“They were all over us and we obviously had whatever 20, 21 turnovers again. That’s too many on the road to beat a good team,” Nowitzki concluded after the Mavs totaled 20 giveaways in the loss to the Bucks as well. “We just can’t turn the ball over that many times. But you’ve got to give them credit. I mean, they were ripping at every ball and they’re good at it.”
The Mavs will now take Thursday off before continuing their three-game road trip by touching down in Brooklyn for Friday night’s matchup against the Nets. The two teams have yet to play each other this season. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7 p.m. CT.
“All I can say is we all own this,” Carlisle concluded. “We own all the losses. We own the wins when we get them as a team. And this is a challenging stretch, it’s a challenging year, but we’re going to stick together and keep fighting, and that’s just the way we’re going to do business with this thing. … It’s another tough lesson in a season full of tough lessons.”
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