The Dallas Mavericks had a tough draw tonight, getting a physical Memphis Grizzlies team on the second night of a back-to-back. Not surprisingly, the clean shaven Mavericks would lose, and sink back under .500, though the concerns of many remain not in Dallas, but many miles away, in Massachusetts.
The Mavs began the night looking terrific, carrying over the euphoria of shaving(!) after a comfortable win against the Hornets. Dallas took a page from the Memphis playbook early, forcing turnovers and turning them into transition points. Dirk would hit his first three shots, and Dallas opened up a double-digit lead at 27-17, finishing the quarter up eight at 29-21.
Vince Carter, who would pass Clyde Drexler for 27th place on the NBA's all time scoring list, made the second quarter his own personal highlight reel, with acrobatic putback layups, contorting fallaway bank shots, pullup threes, and a block on 6'11 Austin Daye. He would finish with 10 in that period, which was made all the more impressive by the dearth of points from either side, as they mustered just 17 apiece, keeping the lead eight at 46-38. Carter led all halftime scorers with 15 points, and Shawn Marion, who also looked great in the first half, was second with nine.
In the third, Memphis finally started to play their style of basketball. Moving quicker on defense, they started to disrupt the passing lanes for the Mavs, creating turnovers that helped fuel at 12-4 run to start the quarter, cutting the Dallas lead to one. Also, while Dallas had done a pretty decent job keeping them off the glass in the first half, the Grizzlies could be kept out of the paint only so long, and for a good chunk of the period Memphis got as many tries as needed to keep the score ticking upward.
Dallas wouldn't bow out so quickly, however. Dirk Nowitzki, who after making his first three shots, had missed six straight, finally got back in the scoring column, and put up nine in the third. Though Memphis had taken the lead, the Big German kept the home team close, and the score read 68-67 heading into the final frame.
Here, though, the two teams diverged, with Memphis maintaining a physical, grinding attack, and Dallas showing signs of fatigue with sloppy mistakes on offense and slow movement at the other end. Dirk would add 11 more in the fourth, giving him 26 overall, but it wouldn't be enough. Memphis would register eight of their 16 offensive boards in this quarter, helping them to stretch their lead to 10 and make a comeback unlikely. Dallas, playing the foul game with a minute left, did have the ball with 25 seconds left and the lead just six, but a Mike James pass sailed past sharpshooter Anthony Morrow, ending a shot at a miracle run before it could even starter.
A couple of noteworthy things here:
With Carter passing Drexler, on the night after Dirk got to 25,000, it's fairly remarkable how many milestones have been reached by Maverick players this year(Shawn Marion also had one earlier). In a season without a postseason to look forward to, at least there's something to feel good about.
In the fourth quarter, with about five and a half minutes left, Rick Carlisle nearly tackled O.J. Mayo in a frustrated attempt to call a timeout. It followed a pretty horrid stretch of play for Dallas, so I didn't think a whole lot of it at the time, but Carlisle was fairly coarse in his comments on Mayo after the game. Stay tuned for more on that.
If you were wondering why I didn't mention Mayo prior to that last paragraph, it's because he went 1-6(0-4 from three) with 2 points, 1 assist, and 4 turnovers. Mayo had put two pretty solid games back to back, but I can't quite figure out why Mayo has looked so disinterested against his former team this year. He now has scored just 34 points in four games against Memphis. Wouldn't you want to stick it to your former employers a little bit?
Dallas finishes out their season Wednesday against New Orleans. Can they finish the year at .500?