The shorthanded Dallas Mavericks fell to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night by a score of 112-108. Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving both did not play for Dallas. Jaden Hardy and Josh Green each had 21 points to lead the Mavericks. Desmond Bane and David Roddy had 25 and 24 points, respectively for Memphis.
Hardy got the Mavericks off to a good start in the first quarter, scoring the team’s first five points and demonstrating that he was ready to fill the offensive void created by Luka and Kyrie’s absence. Memphis wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire, but Dallas struggled to knock down open three pointers. The result was a tight, grindy frame that saw the Grizzlies take a 27-23 lead into the second quarter.
Dallas continued to play hard in the second quarter, doing just enough to stay connected. Memphis, with the massive talent advantage, was able to attack the paint relentlessly; the Grizzles ended up with a whopping 34 paint points by halftime. But the Maverick defense competed nevertheless, holding Memphis to just 4-of-20 on three pointers in the first half. Unfortunately, they couldn’t quite keep up offensively in the second quarter and headed into halftime down 56-50.
The Mavericks showed a ton of heart in the third quarter, and things finally started to click offensively. Some threes went down, including a huge one from Josh Green to give the Mavericks the lead at 68-67 with 6:30 left in the quarter. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jaden Hardy continued to score for the Mavericks, opening up a lead that grew to as many as eight before eventually heading into the fourth quarter up 83-77.
Dallas picked up where they left off the open the fourth, stretching their lead to double digits with another huge Josh Green three early in the period. Memphis, led by David Roddy (who somehow scored 17 points in the fourth), made a run to cut the lead down to as little as one with four minutes to play. The Grizzlies took the lead on the next possession at 102-101 and sadly, the Mavericks would never get it back. Jaden Hardy made a couple of rookie mistakes down the stretch that cost Dallas, and their incredible effort fell short. There are no moral victories, and although this shorthanded group fought hard, the reality is that the Mavericks are now sitting at .500 with 14 games to go. Here are three observations from this one.
Jaden Hardy needs to play
Jaden Hardy may not have closed to game on a high note, but on a night where Dallas was desperate for offensive creation, he stepped up and gave them great minutes. He looked comfortable initiating offense, attacking the paint, and pulling up for tough jumpers. All things considered, Hardy has shown a ton of promise in his rookie season and it was nice to see him get a chance to learn and grow tonight.
He’s done enough in his limited time this year to warrant minutes over Frank Ntilikina, even when everyone is healthy. This season is going nowhere anyway; Hardy needs reps to play through mistakes and build on successes.
Josh Green may be back
Green had fallen on hard times of late, scoring just 4.6 points per game in his last five games, looking reluctant to shoot and indecisive with the ball in his hands. His defense had also fallen off a bit too. Although Green is in his third year in the league, it was fair to wonder if he had hit something resembling the “rookie wall” in his first season playing major rotation minutes. Being benched for Justin Holiday and having his role reduced likely didn’t help his confidence, either. But tonight, with the Mavericks needing someone to step up, Green seemed to find some of that confidence again. His 21-10-4 line on 9-of-16 shooting was impressive, and he competed hard on defense, too.
He needs to bottle this performance and bring this energy every night; the Mavericks simply need him to be productive.
Being just .500 on the season stinks
There’s really no other way to say it. Things have gone very poorly for Dallas to be where they are at this point in the season. Injuries, coaching, roster construction, and bad luck have all played a role. If the season ended today, the Mavericks would be in the play-in tournament, matching up with a tough Minnesota team on the road. Missing the playoffs altogether is a very real possibility, especially if Doncic and Irving’s absences linger.
Finding a way to win tonight would have been huge, a galvanizing type of victory that could have given the team a big boost for the stretch run. Instead, it’s just another game where the team fell short. There’s been far too many games this season that have ended with that result. It is what it is.
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