What has Memphis done lately?
After a hot start to the season, the Memphis Grizzlies have hit a snag. Since the All Star break, the Grizz have a record of just 8-7, including, most recently, a 10 point loss to the Pistons. During this stretch, the team has seen its offensive rating drop from 104.6 to 98. In conjunction with this dip, their per game scoring average has also fallen from 100.6 to 92.7. That's a dramatic decline.
What are the Grizzlies' biggest strength and weakness?
The aforementioned offensive decline is a concern for the best team in the Southwest Division. However, the Grizzlies are still a formidable team. On road games, since the All Star break, Memphis has an offensive rating of 99.1 and averages 94.5 points per game. In fact, almost all of their offensive categories see an uptick on the road. They shoot 45.9 percent on field goals, 33.6 percent on 3-pointers, and dish an average of 23 assists. Those aren't the numbers of an offensive juggernaut but they should give the Mavericks some pause.
While the road has been kind to the offense, it's Memphis' normally stout defense that has deserted them away from FedEx Forum. The Grizzlies' defensive rating on the road since the break is 102. Opponents are averaging 97.1 points per game when they host Memphis.
It also doesn't help that the Grizz turn the ball over a lot on the road. Memphis has a turnover ratio of 16.3 for an average of 15.5 turnovers per game since the break. If your defense is struggling, it's usually wise not to give the opponent more offensive opportunities.
What's the biggest matchup to watch?
As with most contests between these two teams, the best matchup is between the frontcourt starters. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol have bested Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler in their three meetings this season. While Memphis has a 2-1 edge in wins versus Dallas, the pairing of Z-Bo and Gasol has thoroughly dominated the series. The team has combined to average 69 points per contest with their star frontcourt duo on the court as well as post an offensive rating of 113 against the Mavericks.
Meanwhile, the Mavs, with Chandler and Nowitzki in the game, average just 39.3 points and have a 107.4 offensive rating against the the Grizzlies. There are likely countless reasons why Dirk and Tyson have been relatively ineffective against the likes of Z-Bo and Gasol. However, it really comes down to Carlisle having to try and hide Nowitzki. He can't guard either of Memphis' bigs and, if you have noticed this season, Nowitzki's defense has been as porous as ever.
Nonetheless, this is the matchup to watch.
What do the Mavs need to do to be successful against the Grizz?
Rick Carlisle somewhat admitted that his team doesn't have the personnel to rebound well every night. "We've got to get some monsters that push and shove and throw people out of the way to go get the ball. We've got to get more of those guys," Carlisle said after the victory over the Clippers. However, it would seriously behoove the Mavericks to be competitive on the glass against the Grizzlies. In their wins since the All Star break, Memphis has a rebounding percentage of 51.4. In their losses, the percentage drops to 47.7.
Dallas, in home wins has a rebounding percentage of 49.7. In home losses, that percentage falls to 44.6. Unfortunately for the Mavs, Memphis, in road losses, rebound at roughly the same rate as Dallas does when it wins.
To make up for the inevitable rebounding disadvantage, the Mavericks are going to have to force the Grizzlies to turn the ball over. As mentioned above, the Grizz are susceptible to turning the ball over at a high rate and the Mavs need to take full advantage of that.
3-point shooting will also be important for Dallas. Over their last five home games, the team has converted on 42.3 percent of their 3-point attempts. It has been a huge part of their offense, the team has attempted 26 3-pointers in the last five home games, and the dividends have paid off.
Memphis is playing poorly and the team knows it. That makes them all the more dangerous. The Mavericks know this. However, Dallas is playing with a renewed sense of vigor, Orlando's late game surge aside. Nothing is going to be easy for the Mavs down the stretch and Memphis is just another obstacle.
7:30 p.m. CT on FSSW