The Dallas Mavericks (29-24, 7th in Western Conference) were just decimated by Philadelphia on the second night of a back-to-back. The Mavericks have made plenty of headlines lately after owner Mark Cuban and Luka Doncic publicly criticized the play-in tournament. They’re upset about the setup, and it’s likely because they’re about to be in it. If the season ended today, the Mavericks would be tonight’s opponent — the Memphis Grizzlies.
Since March 16, the Grizzlies are 10-6. Heading into this game with Dallas, Memphis has won five of their last seven. During this 16 stretch, Jonas Valanciunas has been on an absolute tear. Since March 16, Valanciunas leads the team in points (18.4) and rebounds (14.3) per game, as well as field goal percentage (61.1%). Despite not being the team’s leading scorer in this stretch, Ja Morant is still averaging 17.7 points and adding 7.0 assists per game. There’s plenty of dangerous weapons on this Memphis team that can surprise you, but let’s look at three specific things for this matchup:
Valanciunas vs. Porzingis?
When Dallas played the Grizzlies earlier in the season, Kristaps Porzingis was on the sidelines. With Porzingis out, Dwight Powell was slid into the starting center role and tasked to contain Valanciunas. Where disaster might’ve been expected, Powell played really well on defense. Valanciunas had a forgettable night, going 5-for-18 from the field and shot just 4-of-13 when defended by Powell. Assuming Porzingis is back in the starting five for this game, it will be interesting to see how he handles the rolling Valanciunas.
The first time these two teams met, it was a weird shooting night from both sides. The Grizzlies had a disastrous night, shooting just 6-of-31 (19.4%) from deep. Dallas was much closer to par, shooing 15-of-41 (36.6%). Luckily for the Mavericks, Tim Hardaway Jr. had one of his nuclear nights and was 7-of-11 from deep.
It will be interesting to see what the storyline is tonight. Over their last seven games, these two teams are hitting the deep shot at completely different successes. Dallas is shooting just 33.8% from deep in their last seven games, placing them 24th in the league during that time. Memphis on the other hand is shooting an impressive 41.5%, good for fourth best in the league. The Mavericks will be looking to reverse the roles in this one to walk away with a win.
Getting Richardson back on track
Josh Richardson is having one of those stretches where he’s struggling to get things going in the basket. Over his last five games, Richardson has put up ridiculously ugly shooting splits of 40/28/66.7. Richardson has struggled to consistently put together good games, but with the playoffs quickly approaching, Dallas needs him at his best. If the Mavericks want to avoid the play-in tournament — which they are apparently vehemently opposed to — it sure would held to get Richardson going. Maybe that starts tonight.
How to watch
This game tips off at 8:30 p.m. CST with a national broadcast on ESPN.