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3 notes as Dallas falls flat against Memphis, 133-104

Wake me up when it’s the playoffs

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

What was shaping up to be a highly competitive game after a back and forth first half that ended with the Grizzlies leading by three quickly devolved into a blowout in the second half. Dallas couldn’t find any sort of rhythm on offense and had no answers for Memphis’ fast pace on the other end. The Mavericks lost Tuesday night in Memphis, 133-104.

Luka will surely look to put this one behind him as he finished with just 12 points on 4-of-16 shooting, and went 0-of-4 from deep. Willie Cauley-Stein was a bit of a bright spot tonight, at least early, and his efficient 16 points came via a 7-of-8 shooting performance.

For Memphis, Ja Morant had a night, supplying 24 points and eight assists. Dillion Brooks provided 22 points of his own, and his defense was a big reason Luka had such a forgettable night offensively.

Fastbreak broken

Memphis, the team with the league’s ninth-highest pace, was held to only six fast break points in the first half, which kept Dallas connected on a night when its threes weren’t falling with any consistency.

That changed quickly as the teams took the floor in the second half. In the third quarter alone, the Grizz added 11 fast break points and entered the fourth with a commanding 14 point lead. Dallas never mounted much of a comeback after that and the Morant-powered offense hummed along through the fourth, ending with 21 fastbreak points to Dallas’ six.

Dallas is not a “get out and run” type team, and with their outside shots not falling, Memphis simply had too many opportunities to grab and go with juicy long rebounds.

Not so short handed

Memphis was missing Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas. It didn’t seem to matter as Dallas got beat both on points in the paint, 58-46, as well as bench points, 52-46.

With Maxi Kleber returning and Dwight Powell in top form, Dallas was seemingly primed for a big night inside, but it never came together. Kleber is working through the rust of missing four games with a foot injury, and Powell was rightfully ejected after an inadvertent but nevertheless quite forceful blow to the face of Brandon Clarke. Add in J.J. Redick leaving with a limp after aggravating his heel, and that left Dallas feeling a bit short-handed. The rotation was thrown into chaos as Rick Carlisle resorted to a five-minute stretch for Boban Marjanovic in the third quarter to plug the frontcourt holes. Instead of mounting a comeback, Memphis picked on Bobi and extended their lead from 11 to 18 points by the time he checked out in the fourth.

Playoff peeking

This was, mercifully, Dallas' first game of their final back to back of the season. Some of the losses down the stretch have been frustrating, but by and large the Mavs have put themselves in great position to claim the fifth seed outright by winning 12 of their last 15. Still, Portland refuses to relent, and it’s looking like final seeding is going to come down to the wire. With the Lakers fading, seemingly content to muddle through the play-in tournament, it means Dallas no longer has a three-way tie to lean on. Instead Portland, one of the few teams in the league Dallas has lost their tie breaker to, is going to be a problem for Dallas all the way through finish line.

Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball”, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.