After an unexpected week on hiatus following the catastrophic Texas weather event, the Dallas Mavericks led wire-to-wire against the Memphis Grizzlies, 102-92. Tim Hardaway Jr. was the high point man in Dallas, scoring 29 off the bench. Ja Morant led the Grizzlies in defeat with 22 points.
Both teams appeared asleep to start the opening quarter, with Josh Richardson as the only player for either team to play with any zip. He poured in three deep threes in the frame, jump starting a Dallas offense which looked out of sorts after a week off. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, simply couldn’t score until their bench unit entered the game. Hardaway provided a needed spark off the bench, hitting two threes and a driving lay up off the bench. Luka Doncic was off all quarter, missing all his shots but one, including all four free throws. Those troubles aside, the Mavericks still lead 26-13 after one period of play.
One might expect Memphis to find some sort of second quarter rhythm after Tyus Jones and a flurry of floaters gave the Grizzlies some late offense in the first quarter. That would be an incorrect assumption. Jalen Brunson led the Mavericks, scoring in a variety of ways in the frame, and Hardaway kept throwing flames as the Mavericks extended their lead to as many as 23 in second quarter. Doncic continued to look a step slow but for the first time in recent memory, it didn’t matter. The Mavericks, at one point, held a 20-0 fast break advantage over Memphis, which helped them carry a 54-36 lead into half.
Doncic took control early in the third, getting to the rim and hitting a soft floater. The Grizzlies simply had no response and appeared to be running in sand for much of the frame. Outside of some exciting finishes by Morant, Memphis had very little to offer. That allowed Dallas to feast in transition and off of turnovers. The Mavericks actually cooled considerably from distance in the quarter, but Memphis was unable to chip into the lead at all. After three quarters, Dallas led 81-62.
The Mavericks simply held out the rest of the game. The final frame seemed to be a workshop for Doncic to find his shot as he finally connected on a pair of threes in the opening minutes. The Mavericks let up a bit in the final six minutes of the quarter, allowing their 18-20 point lead to get whittled down to 15, then 12. Dallas managed to hold on to a double digit win, but did not finish the game in enthusiastic fashion. All things considered though, a win is a win and the Mavericks walked away with a 102-92 victory.
Now, some thoughts
Defense leads to offense
This is one of the oldest rules in basketball and the Dallas Mavericks rediscovered their early season active hands for the game against the Grizzlies. Dallas punished the Grizzlies both in fast break points (24-2) but also in points off of turnovers (19-12). Though the Mavericks are 12th in the league in fast break points, they are second to last in points off of turnovers.
Dallas was still fairly poor at the rim but without Kristaps Porzingis the closest player on the roster to a shot blocker is Willie Cauley-Stein. Dallas did a bunch better job on the boards too, getting bodies on Memphis players and not getting destroyed on the offensive glass despite the poor Grizzly shooting performance.
Josh Richardson, pace setter
Richardson finished with 17 points and seven rebounds to go along with three assists and a pair of steals. But his big first quarter, where he had 10 points and five rebounds, really got Dallas going in a quarter where they felt a bit stuck in the mud.
Our own Josh, Josh Bowe, pointed out on Twitter earlier today that Richardson’s having a pretty nice offensive season, once you look past his three point shooting (which is also trending up!).
if josh richardson could shoot just league average (or even just a smidge worse) from three, he'd be having a really good offensive season so far. pic.twitter.com/nBp9JH2IJB— Josh Bowe (@Boweman55) February 22, 2021
It’s good to see Richardson shape into a difference maker for this Dallas team. For now we’ll ignore his team high five turnovers.
This is by no means a new trend but it was good to see the Maverick bench continue to score with ease. Jalen Brunson’s been arguably the second best Dallas player this season and easily the second most consistent. He answered the bell again Monday night, scoring 19 points on a hyper-efficient 7-of-11 from the floor to go along with seven rebounds and three assists. Then Tim Hardaway Jr. continued to be the true x-factor, scoring 29 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including a red hot 7 of 11 from downtown. Dallas, I believe, is now 6-1 when Hardaway scores 20 points or more. 48 points from two players off the bench makes any team tough to beat.