Things didn't go well for Dallas when they encountered Memphis for the first time this season. The then 8-4 Mavs looked overmatched against the Grizzlies in a 110-96 loss, as they turned the ball over 19 times and shot a paltry 39 percent from the floor as a team.
Now, the Grizzlies sit just a half-game behind Dallas in both the Southwest Division and Western Conference Standings. They, like Dallas, have some pretty big leaks in their ship, and both the Grizzlies and Mavs are trying to bail water as fast as they can.
Meanwhile, Dallas is just 2-8 against teams with a record above .500, which is a horrifying signal of where this team could end up, should this trend persist throughout the season.
Dallas Since They Last Met
Since that game with the Grizzlies, the Mavericks have gone just 5-6, with bad losses to Sacramento, Houston, and Washington along the way. Over those 11 games, Dallas has averaged 13.5 turnovers per game while shooting just 43.2 percenet from the floor, and an abysmal 32.6 percent from 3-point range.
Memphis Since They Last Met
The Grizzlies have also wallowed in mediocrity since their last meeting with Dallas, going 6-6 since that win. The biggest concern for Memphis is a noticeable decline on defense. During their 2014-15 campaign, Memphis was second in the NBA in points allowed, giving up just 95.1 points per game to opponents. They were holding opposing teams to just 44.2 percent shooting from the field, good for 10th in the league, and they were forcing 14.6 turnovers a game, good for eighth in the league.
This season, the Grizz have seen those numbers balloon quite a bit. Memphis is allowing opponents to score an average of 100.9 points per game (16th, tied with Dallas), on 45.9 percent shooting (25th). They're still forcing turnovers at a high rate, 15.9 per game, but defensively they've slowed.
Three Keys To a Dallas Win
It's something we've been screaming for all season, but Dallas needs to start making their open shots, especially threes. Memphis may have declined defensively but that simply doesn't matter if Dallas can't take advantage of their good looks.
Zaza Pachulia has been on a rebounding tear over the past four games, averaging just shy of 14 rebounds over that stretch. Dallas managed to out-rebound the Grizzlies in their first meeting (Zaza pulled down 10 boards to go with 13 points), and they'll need to do that again Friday.
Like I mentioned above, Dallas turned the ball over 19 times in their first meeting with Memphis, and Deron Williams, Raymond Felton, and J.J. Barea were responsible for 11 of those. They'll need to protect the ball much better than that to keep Memphis from getting loose on the fast break and scoring easy buckets.
It all seems rather elementary, sure, but maybe getting back to the basics for a moment will help Dallas recover some momentum, and propel them through a tough finish to the month of December.
How to watch
Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. Central, and you can catch the game on Fox Sports Southwest in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, or on NBA League Pass via your streaming device of choice.