Dallas went to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies tonight, though you wouldn't be blamed if you didn't know a game was going on.
If you did have the good fortune to catch this one, you saw some vintage Dirk moments and yet another impressive showing from his newest co-star, Monta Ellis.
Both teams were without Spanish starters tonight, as reigning(defending?) Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol sat out for the Grizz, and Jose Calderon missed his second straight for Dallas.
Just as he did Monday night against New Orleans, Dirk would score the game's first points, and from the get-go he looked pretty locked in. Dallas' second basket of the night came on a Dirk/Ellis pick and roll, and as Dirk's man was reluctant to leave the Big German, Ellis walked into a wide open midrange jumpshot.
Dirk and Ellis would also get help from an apparently motivated Samuel Dalembert, who came out firing at nearly every opportunity(and drew an early trip to the foul line on a hustle play in transition), and a still red-hot Vince Carter, who continues to play like a man unaware he's about to turn 37. Seemingly everyone had it clicking, and Dallas would build a double-digit lead by the end of the first.
Memphis would score the first six points to start the second quarter, but the Dallas defense made it tough to keep any sustained run going, and the Mavs would pile it on after getting into the bonus midway through the period, racking up free throw attempts(yes, this is the Mavericks I'm talking about). The last of several tough Carter fadeaways made it 50-33, and a buzzer-beating three from Mike Conley was needed to make it a respectable 51-40 game at halftime.
Starting the third, Dirk would connect on Dallas' first possession, and not let up, pouring in 11 of the team's first 15 minutes in a little over 4 minutes. The barrage included a pair of classic trailer threes, both set up by Monta, one of which came with a foul and an extra free throw. Before checking out for good, Dirk would return the favor, finding Monta open for a triple of his own, and putting the Mavericks comfortably ahead, 69-46.
Or, y'know...so we thought. After Dirk and a few other starters took a permanent seat on the bench, Memphis would close out the period with a 16-7 run, making it a -- shall we say -- less than insurmountable lead heading into the final quarter.
There, the B-team would struggle. A Crowder free throw and an Ellington jumpshot in the first two possessions made it 82-66 with a little over 11 minutes to play. Dallas would not score again until after Memphis had grabbed their first lead off the entire night at 83-82 with 5:42 left to play. The 23-point lead was no more. It was a little similar to the February 27th game last season when the Grizzlies overcame a 25-point deficit to beat the Mavericks. Some may know it as the "5 point third quarter" game.
Unlike that night, however, Dallas would have a response. Back-to-back Ricky Ledo baskets would put Dallas ahead by three again, and after fellow rookie Jamaal Franklin hit a stepback three, Renaldo Balkman answered with a triple for the good guys, and that would prove to be just about enough, as Memphis would manage just one more made field goal in the final three and a half minutes.
- Preseason or not, one has to be impressed with the way the Dallas regulars handled the Memphis regulars in this one. Pretty much everyone had it going: the top eight rotation guys combined to go 31-56(55.3%), and that gets better if you factor out Gal Mekel's 2-9. Dirk went 7-10, Carter 5-7, and both Ellis and Dalembert hit 4-6.
- Dirk looked really good, in just about every phase of the game. He went to the line five times, grabbed six boards and dropped three dimes in just 23 minutes, and he even blocked a pair of shots. He used his patented strip move to flummox Ed Davis more than once, and did a nice job closing out on three point shooters.
- Speaking of which, Memphis was abysmal from distance, going 2-20. Obviously, that can't all be just good defense. The Grizzlies were flat-out bricking some looks, and this was supposed to be an area of improvement for Memphis, who added MIke Miller to their rotation in the offseason. Still, Dallas can pat themselves on the back a little. They did a good job forcing Memphis to make tough shots, blocked seven shots, and they didn't foul(at halftime Dallas had a 17-4 free throw advantage).
- It may have been because I had to listen to the home broadcast team tonight, but Monta Ellis had a quietly superb night. I did a double-take when I looked at the statsheet in the third and saw the number "8" in the assist column for Ellis. I would wager around half those went to Dirk Nowitzki, and that's simply fantastic news. It remains to be seen what this offense will look like against good teams, in the regular season, but Ellis was very patient tonight, and now has 15 assists against 17 field goal attempts thus far in the preseason. He's also 3-5 from deep, and I'm hard pressed to recall a single longball he's taken that wasn't utterly unbothered. Both he and Dirk should benefit greatly in terms of spacing from each other's presence.
- Vince Carter also deserves praise, as he has done nothing to make last season's time-machine act look like a fluke. There's nothing really all that new to report on him, other than my hope that he saves some of his hot shooting for the regular season.
- Meanwhile, Gal Mekel continues to look a little overmatched. Mike Conley gave him some trouble defensively, and on offense Mekel looks pretty horrid shooting from outside. Once again, nearly everything he took was very short. He makes the ball look about five or six pounds heavier than it is. Interestingly, he was matched up for a portion of this game against Nick Calathes, a similar player that Dallas essentially let go in favor of signing Gal. Aside from hair-fullness and magazine-cover good looks, I don't see anything Mekel has over Calathes. Not that Mekel's career will be judged in relation to Calathes, mind you.
- Fab Melo saw his first action tonight, and went 0-3 with 3 rebounds and 3 fouls in 13 minutes. He is tall.
- Dalembert played much better tonight, scoring mostly from midrange, but it's still a bit of a mixed bag. He can block shots, but was clearly reluctant to follow Zach Randolph out to the perimeter. He also picked up three fouls in about as many minutes to start the third quarter. I get the sense fouls will come in bunches with him. That all being said, it's hard to complain too much about 11-7 in 20 minutes of action.
- Brandan Wright sat out tonight with a sore shoulder, apparently. DeJuan Blair got a slight bump in minutes as a result, and once again looks like a high-energy guy who can't dribble at all. This may be partly due to a lack of familiarity with his new team.