After a season ruined by devastating injuries, the Grizzlies retooled a bit this off-season, keeping many of their seasoned veterans but attempting to shake off a bit of their old defense-oriented, grit-and-grind style with some younger, more athletic additions, the most prominent of which was Parsons.
But with Parsons sidelined with left knee issues for the first six games and still on limited minutes, the results weren’t initially as dramatic as Memphis had hoped. The team still played at one of the slowest paces in the league with one of the worst offenses, but with a very middle-of-the-pack defense.
Chandler Parsons in particular has struggled in his return, shooting just below 40 percent overall and a dismal 12.5 percent from three. He sat out the second half of Wednesday’s game in LA and will likely spend less than 20 minutes on the floor tonight.
But although the Grizzlies got off to a rough start (and Parsons is still working to regain his rhythm), both their offense and their defense has improved over the last few games. Memphis has won three of their last four games and will be looking to keep up the momentum.
So how can Dallas stop their slide and prevent the Grizzlies from improving to a three-game win streak?
Stop Mike Conley
This one is far easier said than done. Dallas will face Memphis at a time when the team’s point guard luck couldn’t be much worse. After filling in heroically for the injured Deron Williams and Devin Harris, J.J. Barea left Wednesday night’s match against the Celtics with a potentially serious injury. Williams re-aggravated his calf strain during that same game, leaving Seth Curry the loan point guard on the roster.
The Mavericks waived Quincy Acy to sign Jonathan Gibson, who was one of the final cuts this summer, but they’ll enter tonight’s game with their back court in a very tough situation.
On the flip side, Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley arrives in Dallas fresh from scoring 30 points in a fantastic win against the league-leading Clippers. He is the team’s leading scorer with an effective field goal percentage north of 55 percent, averaging 19.8 points and 6.5 assists per game. And unfortunately for Dallas, the worst in the league at stopping opponents’ three-point shots, he’s shooting over 49 percent from deep.
Take advantage of Memphis’ front court
Mike Conley has been excellent this season, and former Maverick Vince Carter has delivered some vintage performances, but the Grizzlies haven’t gotten consistent excellence from their big men this season.
This was one of the bigger changes for Memphis, bringing Zach Randolph off the bench this season and frequently pairing Marc Gasol with a younger, springier power forward. But it’s taken Gasol some time to find his game after being injured last season, and the Grizzlies are significantly less capable of defending the paint than they were two seasons ago when Gasol and Randolph anchored one of the league’s best defenses.
Dallas is suffering from its own issues in the front court, but if the team can rally and find a way to take advantage of the fact that Memphis’ interior defense isn’t quite what it once was, the Mavericks may have a chance to get that third win.
Get Dirk back
Harrison Barnes has done a phenomenal job attempting to carry this team through a tough start to the season, and there are certainly valid concerns about what happens if he moves back to the small forward once Dirk is back in the starting line-up, but this team needs Dirk Nowitzki on the floor. Nowitzki has indicated that he’s feeling better and is expected to return to action at some point this weekend. Hopefully that will happen tonight.
How to watch
Tonight’s game tips off at 7:30PM Central and can be seen locally on Fox Sports Southwest. Outside of the Dallas and Memphis areas, you can catch it on NBA League Pass.