Memphis is having a moment. The euphoria of the Maverick fandom was put on hiatus when the team’s 6-game winning streak was snapped in unceremonious fashion by the Knicks. Not such trouble in Memphis, where the Grizz are winners of 11 straight.
Dallas had some great wins over their 6 game run - Golden State and Chicago in particular. If they came out and stole one against a memphis team that’s as hot as anyone in the league right now, that would be a huge win. With Memphis coming off a back to back, the star may align for Dallas to get back in the win column.
A style mismatch
Since December 26th, the start of Memphis’ current run, the Grizzlies and Mavericks own the league’s 2nd and 3rd best net ratings. Not a shocker, since both squads have been stacking up wins. But they’ve gotten there very differently. Memphis, led by the uber-athletic Ja Morant are a top ten team in pace over that span. Dallas, on the other hand, is nearly dead last. 28th out of 30. The change in head coach apparently wasn’t enough to pur Dallas out of its half-court comfort zone. To a degree, there’s been no reason to. Dallas was stacking up league-leading offensive rating numbers season after season behind loads of high screen Doncic pick and rolls. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Dallas is going to have to come into the game mentally ready to hang with Memphis as they push the pace and look for easy fast break points. Memphis is scoring fast break points at the sixth best rate in the league, and eighth most off turnovers. In case you haven’t caught on to the pattern here yet, Dallas is on the opposite side of those stats. 27th in fast break points and a respectively mediocre 14th for points generated from turnovers. It’ll certainly be a clash of two divergent styles of basketball.
A Ja Morant-sized elephant in the room
Dallas and Memphis have played twice so far this season, splitting the series with one game a piece. However, both of those matchups came when Memphis was without Ja Morant. Their game Friday will be Dallas’ first look at this newly transcendent Ja Morant. You know, the Ja Morant that pulled ahead of Luka Doncic in All Star votes.
Morant has taken huge leaps in just about every area of production when it comes to basketball, so whichever Maverick draws him on defense is going to have their hands full. More likely, attempting to defend Ja will be a team effort - perhaps one of the tallest orders that this new defensive-minded Mavs squad has faced.
A little Luka Magic
The start of this season was defined largely by dazzling performances from the team’s Super Star, Luka Doncic, and how often he was weighed down by his supporting cast. That script has flipped to a degree. Luka’s absence due to health and safety protocols was part of what kicked off the team’s resurgence, and saw the rotation players starting to play with a bit more energy.
He’s still putting up numbers, but since his return in early January, his efficiency has been in the toilet, shooting a paltry 37.5% from the floor and 22.9% from three. Some of that may have to do with the nagging ankle injury that caused him to miss a game against Houston. Houston is terrible, so they won that game regardless, but Memphis is decidedly NOT terrible. And with Kristaps Porzingis who continues to miss time, Dallas is going to need more from their on-court leader.
How to watch
You can watch the broadcast on ESPN at 9:00 CST.