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Mavericks vs. Grizzlies Preview: 3 reasons not to overlook one of the worst teams in the NBA

Star Grizzlies guard Ja Morant still has eight games left in his suspension. It’s up to Dallas to take care of business.

Dallas Mavericks v Memphis Grizzlies
Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks handles the ball against Derrick Rose #23 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the game at FedExForum on October 30, 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee.
Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Forget players-only meetings. The Memphis Grizzlies (4-13) are past those trivialities as they head to Texas for a meeting with your Dallas Mavericks (11-6) Friday at the American Airlines Center.

No, the Grizzlies’ incompetence has frustrated the veterans on the roster to the point that they have graduated to holding a player-led practice, according to the Memphis Commerical Appeal.

“It’s accountability,” Grizzlies guard Derrick Rose told the newspaper. “Somebody got to get on me whenever I mess up and it’s vice versa.”

Memphis had lost four straight, until, the story goes, that renewed sense of accountability inspired the Grizzlies to a 105-91 win at home against Utah on Wednesday. Jaren Jackson Jr. led six Grizzlies who scored in double figures with 20 points, six rebounds and a vicious six blocks in the team’s first home win of the year. Fourth-year guard and TCU product Desmond Bane added 17 points, nine assists and seven boards. The Grizz defended well, holding the Jazz to just 37.8 percent field goal shooting in the win.

Jackson and Bane scored 30 points apiece in the teams’ first meeting of the year, a 125-110 Mavs win in Memphis on October 30. The Grizzlies are, of course, without star guard Ja Morant for eight more games. He was suspended 25 games in June for conduct detrimental to the league, after being seen on a friend’s Instagram feed holding what appeared to be a gun, for like the gazillionth time.

Despite all this, here are three reasons not to overlook this matchup and this Grizzlies team as the Mavs look to get a winning streak started on their current four-game homestand. We can add a bonus fourth reason right now: Luka Doncic and Dante Exum are out for this game with personal reasons.

Let’s start with Jackson and Bane

Jackson and Bane are exactly the type of players that typically torment the porous Mavericks defense — look no further than the Mavs’ last visit to the FedEx Forum when the pair combined for 60 of Memphis’ 110 points.

Jackson has that unique sense of athleticism in the paint combined with a deep shooting threat, and, oh yea, he was last year’s NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He can be a problem in the post at the same time he’s causing problems on the perimeter. Jackson is more than equipped to dominate any of Dallas’ bigs on the block and on the boards.

Dallas Mavericks v Memphis Grizzlies
Desmond Bane #22 of the Memphis Grizzlies takes a shot against Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks during the second half at FedExForum on October 30, 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee.
Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Bane is a big, versatile, high-IQ player on both ends of the floor and still hasn’t reached his ceiling in his fourth year. He is also a switchable defender who can guard most wings, and he has great strength. He’s a good enough shot-blocker to affect a ton of perimeter jumpers.

Both Jackson and Bane average more points per game against the Mavericks in their career than they do against the league at large. Bane comes into the game averaging 23.2 points on 44 percent shooting, 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, while Jackson averages 19.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

The Grizzlies shoot nearly as many 3-pointers as the Mavericks

Not many teams can say they hoist as many treys as your Dallas Mavericks, but the Grizzlies are among the few who can keep up. The Mavericks come into the contest chunking 42.6 shots from deep per contest, good for second in the league behind Boston at 43.3. Memphis enters the game getting up 39.9, or fourth in the NBA.

If Memphis is going to find a way to knock Dallas off at home, getting hot from 3-point range is likely a key component. Things that often get overlooked like perimeter defense, closing out on shooters and limiting the Grizzlies to one shot per possession could be the difference in keeping Memphis at arm’s length or allowing them to hang around.

Because it’s the first night of back-to-back games

The Mavericks certainly don’t want to get caught looking ahead of this matchup against the Grizz, but we will. After Memphis on Friday, the Mavericks host the Oklahoma City Thunder (also 11-6) on Saturday in another test against a potential Western Conference contender on the second night of the back-to-back.

Dallas would appreciate any opportunity to rest key pieces like Luka Dončić, Kyrie Irving and Dereck Lively II late in the Memphis game with the outcome already sealed. Dallas will have to take care of business for three solid quarters for that to even come into play, though.

How to watch

The game tips off at 6:30 p.m. on Bally Sports Southwest.