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Mavericks vs. Grizzlies Preview: Can Memphis Down Dallas?

It's only January, but Grizzlies vs. Mavericks could have big playoff implications down the line. Action Network senior writer Matt Moore has two bets for Friday's showdown.

Matt Moore

Mavericks vs. Grizzlies Odds

Mavericks Odds +3 
Grizzlies Odds -3 
Over/Under 217
Time 10 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The hottest team in the league faces off against a division rival with big implications for the playoff race, even in January. Can Luka Doncic and the Mavs slow down Ja Morant and the juggernaut Grizz?


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Dallas Mavericks

Kristaps Porzingis is out (health and safety protocols). Willie Cauley-Stein remains out with a personal issue.

The Mavericks were on a tear until the Knicks stopped them in their tracks Wednesday.

Surprisingly, it’s their defense that’s done the work this season. Dallas has the No. 1 defense in the past two weeks, per Cleaning The Glass, and is second in net rating.

The Mavericks are playing a more physical brand of defense under Jason Kidd, and that’s helped them take the sting off Doncic shooting just 44% from the field and 31% from 3.

Even in the last five games, the Mavs’ offensive rating with Doncic on the floor is just 106, 2.3 points worse than when he’s on the bench.

Maybe more concerning is how rarely the Mavericks have beaten good teams. The Mavs are 3-9 straight up vs. teams with a top-10 net rating, per Cleaning The Glass. For the season, Dallas is 9-9 ATS as an underdog, with the last team with a 60% win percentage or better that they’ve beaten outright being the Jazz back on Christmas.

Dallas is also 1-5 straight up vs. teams with both a top-10 offensive and top-10 defensive rating.

Dallas plays mostly drop in pick-and-roll coverage, which Memphis is subpar at (20th). The Mavs also switch a fair amount and Memphis is even worse in that regard, ranking 27th per possession, according to Second Spectrum data provided to The Action Network.

The Mavericks should be able to slow down the Grizzlies’ half-court offense.


Memphis Grizzlies

Dillon Brooks is out with a sprained ankle. Steven Adams did not play Thursday vs. the Timberwolves due to illness. Killian Tillie and Yves Pons are also out.

Memphis’ big edge is in transition in this game. The Mavericks allow the 13th-most fastbreak points per game, and Memphis has the second-most efficient transition attack in the league. Dallas has done a good job of slowing teams down, allowing a bottom-five rate of transition for the opponent, but Memphis is elite in this regard.

The Grizzlies also have the No. 3 offense against top-10 defenses, neutralizing one of the Mavericks’ strengths.

Morant may have a hard time with the Mavericks’ eighth-ranked defense in pick-and-roll situations, and Dallas is second in the league in defending isolations. If the Grizzlies are going to win this game, they’ll need big performances from Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr.

Memphis focuses on shutting down shots at the rim; it ranks first in points allowed per possession around the rim on non-post-ups, per Synergy.

The Mavericks are also 30th — dead last — in rim rate, so it’ll come down to whether the Mavericks can hit jumpers or not. For the season, Dallas ranks 16th in jump shot efficiency.

Mavericks-Grizzlies Pick

I make this closer to Grizzlies -11, giving a significant edge to Memphis based mostly on their big edge in transition scoring.

Dallas has been better lately, and the Grizzlies are coming off a come-from-behind win at home over the Wolves on Thursday.

Notably, this game matters quite a bit for playoff purposes; the winner will clinch at least a split of the season series. That could be the difference in securing the fourth seed or a play-in spot in the Western Conference.

I like Memphis, but I like the under even more. I have this projected at 214.

With the Mavericks’ ability to get back and stop teams in transition, plus their own offensive woes, this could be a grind-it-out affair.

Pick: Grizzlies -3 · Under 218.5