Led by 20 points from Dirk Nowitzki and something resembling a pulse from embattled center Samuel Dalembert, the Dallas Mavericks won convincingly tonight, 105-91. Their record now equals their previous season-best at five games over .500, and with the Toronto Tankjobs coming to town Friday, they have a good chance of setting a new season high there very soon.
The Memphis Grizzlies, on the second night of a back to back, looked tired and undermanned, clearly suffering from the absence of starters Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.
Dallas took a six point advantage in the first quarter, stretched the margin to 13 at halftime, and held a lead virtually the entire game. After the Grizzlies threatened to get back in the game with a 13-1 third quarter run to make the lead just four, Dallas responded with a run of their own, leading at one point by as much as 21 points, and eventually winning by 14.
Memphis shot under 40% from the field, and despite 22 offensive boards, simply couldn't muster enough offense to keep up with Dallas.
The Grizzlies appeared sluggish right from the start. They shot just 36% in the first half, and if one needed evidence of just how scoring-starved they were, Tony Allen led the team in shot attempts at halftime, going 5-13 from the field. Allen would end up leading the team with 16 points on 7-17 shooting when the final buzzer sounded. Zach Randolph was unable to pick up the slack, going just 2-8 in the first half, and Z-Bo finished 5-18 for 14 points on the night.
Dallas meanwhile, well-rested after a full three days off from Saturday's win, shot 53% in the first half tonight, and finished even better at a shade under 55% after 48 minutes. If not for a 22-11 offensive rebound deficit, and 54 points in the paint, the Grizzlies would have completely demolished.
To Memphis' credit, they did make a strong run in the third quarter. With Dirk Nowitzki on the bench, the Grizz used a 13-1 spurt to make the Dallas lead just four at 66-62. For a moment, it looked like Dallas might fall back into the all-too-familiar trap of giving away a late lead, something they did most recently against Golden State.
However, tonight Dallas had the answer, and it came in form of a big-man duo Dallas has not seen on the floor together too much lately. A Dirk jumper would stop the bleeding, making it 68-62, and some of the most energized basketball we've seen from Dalembert in weeks helped Dallas continue to rebuild the lead, making it 12 at the end of the third period.
Dalembert and Dallas would continue to take it to Memphis in the fourth. A Monta Ellis three made the lead a game-high 21 at 98-77, and soon after Dallas would put in the "victory cigar" lineup to close things out.
It was a quietly efficient night for the Mavs two stars. Dirk shot 9-15 for 20 points; Monta finished 6-12 for 18 points. Vince Carter and Jose Calderon also shot well, going 4-6 and 5-7, respectively. Let's face it: everybody shot well tonight.
Though DeJaun Blair started his sixth straight game, maybe the story of the night was Dalembert, who came off the bench to put up 8 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals in 13 minutes. What's more, Dalembert seemed to be playing angry. He hustled to get offensive rebounds and contest shots on defense, and showed emotion, scowling and yelling when he'd done his job. His final basket came on a vicious putback dunk off a Shawn Marion miss, and he had the expression to match.
Dallas has moved back into 6th place in the West, at 15-10. Though they have the reeling Raptors Friday, they will face a three-game test after that, facing the Suns, Rockets and Spurs next. A healthy Wright and a motivated Dalembert could be key as the Mavs get ready to match up against real playoff opponents. While a win is a win and this one was rarely in doubt, I think we can all agree that without Marc Gasol or Mike Conley, Memphis is not a true playoff caliber team.