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Mavericks vs. Grizzlies Preview: 3 thoughts before Dallas takes on Memphis, again

The rag-tag Mavs show they have plenty of fight, but is that enough?

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

The Dallas Mavericks (34-34) face the Memphis Grizzlies for the third time this year and the second meeting this weekend. This time it is a home game for Dallas and they will need that advantage as they attempt to crawl back above the .500 line and remain relevant in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies defeated the Mavericks 112-108 on Friday night in a game marked by a blistering 33-point third quarter by Dallas - only to see the offense go cold and the turnover bug bite at the worst possible moments down the stretch.

With Luka Doncic again out with a thigh strain and Kyrie Irving listed as questionable with a sore right foot, Jaden Hardy and Josh Green may start again. The question is rarely a matter of scoring punch from this duo - but whether they can navigate pressure moments with the game on the line. If Friday night is any indication, they may be tested in the late stages of this contest to come up clutch.

Staring into the sub-.500 abyss

It was not all that long ago that talk of home-court advantage abounded after the Kyrie Irving trade. Now the Mavericks find themselves right at the .500 mark and facing the real possibility of falling under. As shaky as things may feel right now, Dallas must turn on the thrusters to avoid a much steeper decline in the standings. They could vault back into the conversation for the fifth seed as Dallas is only a game back of the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. It must also be pointed out that the Mavericks are only three games in the loss column above the Portland Trail Blazers who are 13th in the West - ahead of only the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets.

While there is every reason to expect Dallas to rally once their stars return, it is also fair to ponder the calamity that is not very fair away in the standings. The multitude of early-season losses that felt avoidable and bizarre now looms large. The Mavs stare into the sub-.500 abyss and it bellows back, “the pick may not convey”.

Big Body Roddy

The Grizzlies were buoyed by a career-high 24 points from rookie forward David Roddy. The 6’5 first-year player is listed at 252 pounds and used his size and power to bully Dallas defenders with a 17-point fourth quarter that turned the game. The lack of perimeter defenders who can match up with Roddy made him a tough man to leave open - yet the Mavericks’ defense often relies on leaving the fifth option open and taking their chances. Keep your eyes open for who Dallas decides to help off of in the fourth quarter with the game on the line as the outcome may hinge on that player hitting open shots.

First and Last

The Dallas Mavericks season can be summed up by two stats. Despite all their defensive woes, they rank first in the NBA in by allowing the fewest three pointers made per game. They rank last in the NBA in rebounds per game with 38.6 - well below the second-worst Brooklyn Nets at 40.2 per game.

Dallas is an elite 3-point defense—both as a point of emphasis and due to their porous interior defense. Much of the rebounding issue this season can be tied back to the ineffectiveness of JaVale McGee and Jason Kidd’s one-man mission to keep Christian Wood stuck to the bench as much as possible. Wood leads the team in rebounds per 60 minutes played with 17.5 - well ahead of Luka Doncic at 14.25. Let that sink in.

How to Watch

This one is another national TV game. You can watch it on ESPN at 6:30 p.m.