Folks, we've made it. It's the last game of the regular season. Together, we have traveled through the roller coaster that has been the Dallas Mavericks' season and come out the other side with only minimal physical damage, a dollop of emotional stress, and only a few more gray hairs (some of us are older than others). Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable, if slightly too long, regular season which saw the Mavs climb over the hump and return to the post season. If nothing else, the playoffs just extend the season ever so slightly so we can revive all of our wild emotions.
Wednesday night's game against the Grizzlies is as important as any game of the regular season if the Mavericks care who they face in the first round of the playoffs. If they beat Memphis, they will hold onto the seventh seed and face the Thunder in the first round. If the Grizz win, the Mavs will be the eighth seed and play the Spurs. As a man who was later eaten by dinosaurs once said, "Hold onto your butts."
On to the Four-Pointer...
What has Memphis done lately?
The Grizzlies have won their last four games. On Monday night, they defeated the Phoenix Suns 97-91 to clinch the final Western Conference playoff berth and thus eliminated the Suns from any playoff contention hopes.
What are the Grizzlies' biggest strength and weakness?
Their frontcourt, manned by Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, and their defense are the Grizzlies' biggest strengths. Z-Bo has been dominant this year and took it to the Suns on Monday when Memphis' season was on the line. Gasol is the defending defensive player of the year and, despite injuries, has put together another good season.
Defensively, Memphis loves to play physical. Their "grit-n-grind" approach is epitomized by the almost reckless defensive tenacity of Tony Allen. They are active in the passing lanes and frustrate ball handlers. Also, don't cede any rebounds to their opponents.
Their weakness continues to be an inability to take and make three-pointers. Memphis ranks dead last in three-point attempts and makes. Obviously, with anchors like Randolph and Gasol, their offense is predicated on low post scoring and midrange jumpers. This clogs the middle as defenses hedge off perimeter shooters. Mike Miller, though, has come alive recently and gives the Grizzlies a legitimate outside threat. More on Miller in the Q&A later.
What's the biggest matchup to watch?
This game is about Dirk Nowitzki going head to head with Randolph. Neither can jump high. Neither defends well. What both have the ability to do is get buckets. Many buckets will be had on Wednesday night.
What do the Mavs need to do to be successful against the Grizzlies?
Dallas needs to score in transition so that Memphis doesn't have time to settle down into their halfcourt defense. With Z-Bo and Gasol likely splitting time guarding Nowitzki, the Mavs need to exploit the mismatch and draw the big men away from the paint to open up baseline and backdoor cuts to the rim. Dallas' offense is far more potent that the Grizzlies, but working off the pick and roll could be difficult with Memphis' big bodies crowding the paint and Allen fighting through screens.
Defensively, the Mavs just need to force the Grizz bigs out of their comfort zones and into tough shots. Mike Conley should give Dallas trouble as well. It will be important to disrupt his passing and cut off any penetration.