In their last home game before the start of the regular season, the Mavs showed why so many people are optimistic about this team, pulling away from the Grizzlies in fairly convincing fashion. The final score was a little misleading, as Dallas had a 15-20 point lead at the end of the third quarter before their third stringers and D-League players gave a lot of it away in an almost unwatchable display of garbage time basketball.
One person who came away really impressed was Memphis coach Dave Joerger. "[Dallas] is a top three team in the West, that's the facts, they have more talent, they are hard as heck to guard, they have multiple combinations of players that can really score at any time. They stretch you out all over the floor, and the team is one of the best teams in the West."
Even with Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis off to a slow start, the offense had no trouble on Monday, as seven different players ended up in double digits, including all five starters. Memphis has one of the best defenses in the league and even they had trouble with the amount of offensive threats the Mavs could throw on the floor. Tyson Chandler and Jameer Nelson were particularly impressive, taking advantage of all the attention the other starters drew.
Chandler got the defensive assignment against Randolph and his length and defensive activity gave the Grizzlies star PF a lot of problems on that end of the floor. That left Dirk on Marc Gasol, which went about as well as you would expect, with Gasol pouring in 17 points on 6-11 shooting. The good news is that very few NBA teams can kill you from the C and the PF position, so Dirk's defense shouldn't be too much of a liability on most nights.
Maybe the most interesting match-up of the night came after the Mavs first rotation, when Parsons moved down to the PF position and had to man up Z-Bo in the post. Even with the advantage in size, Randolph couldn't really take advantage, although a lot of that had to do with the Grizzlies inability to space the floor. How Parsons does as a small-ball 4 against some of the mammoth PF's in the Western Conference will be something to watch all season.
What Dallas will have to do is take advantage of the match-up on other side of the floor, since a guy like Randolph should have no chance of staying with Parsons on the perimeter. Memphis ended up scrambling defensive assignments, hiding Randolph on other perimeter players, but spreading them out still worked to the Mavs advantage, as their normal defensive rotations with two big men in the paint were thrown out of whack.
Dallas slowly pulled away over the course of the game, as their advantage in offensive firepower was very apparent, particularly with Vince Carter playing only seven minutes. Vince, as you would expect for a 37-year old coming into his 17th season in the league, didn't appear too interested in the proceedings. Memphis is really going to need him this year -- they just do not have a lot of scoring, particularly if Z-Bo is off his game on a particular night.
In all likelihood, the Grizzlies will be one of several teams competing with the Mavs for playoff positioning in what should be an absolutely jumbled playoff picture out West. In that respect, this game had to leave you feeling pretty comfortable about the Mavs' chances -- as long as Tyson Chandler stays healthy, Dallas has the size to match-up with the Memphis front-line and a lot more offense in their starting line-up and their bench.
With the pre-season coming to a close, Rick Carlisle is starting to tighten the rotation, as the Mavs only played 10 guys through the end of the third quarter. The two interesting developments on that front were Gal Mekel getting Ray Felton's minutes as a backup PG and Jae "The Beast" Crowder not getting any burn until garbage time, as Richard Jefferson and Al-Farouq Aminu took the majority of the second-unit wing minutes.
Gal is Gal - he's a smart PG who knows how to get everyone involved, but he still can't shoot and the eyes of every Grizzlies guard would absolutely light up when he guarded them. Even guys like Kalin Lucas, a fourth-string PG with almost no chance of making their roster, had no problem blowing past Gal off the dribble. He was playing Jose Calderon caliber defense, which is something to watch if Felton is out for awhile.
The Beast didn't appear to appreciate the extended stay on the bench, as he came into the game firing, hitting 2 off-the-dribble 3-pointers in a short period of time. That could be a battle all season - Jefferson, who had 2 turn back the clock dunks tonight, appears to have an iron grip on a rotation spot while Carlisle was positively gushing about all the things Aminu can do in the post-game press conference.
Either way, if the battle for the 9th and 10th spots in the rotation is the biggest issue for the Mavs coming out of the pre-season, things are looking pretty good. Memphis, in comparison, is still trying to figure out the right balance of offense and defense in their wing rotations as well as who backs up Randolph. You can only tell so much from a pre-season game, obviously, but you have to feel good about how Dallas is playing right now.
The Mavs have two pre-season games left, a game in Shreveport against the Pelicans on Thursday and a road date against the Magic on Friday. With the start of the season looming, you can expect Carlisle will rest his veterans and try to figure out the battle for the final few spots on the roster in those two games.