Mavs, Grizzlies, tango for 3rd time this season with possible playoffs on the line.
The Game at Hand:
The Mavericks were finally able to pull out consecutive wins for the first time in over half a month, beating a very talented, but slumping Cleveland Cavaliers team on Monday. The team finished their 4 game home stand at a respectable 3-1 mark. The win was a team-oriented effort as Dirk Nowitzki (23 points), Samuel Dalembert (18 points) and Monta Ellis (22 points) all had great offensive showings.
The Mavs now must turn around and travel to Memphis, where they face a red hot Grizzlies group who has won 11 of their last 13 games with notable wins over Portland, Houston and Atlanta in that span. They are however coming off of a Monday night loss to the top seeded Thunder 86-77 that took place in Oklahoma City. This game will carry heavy weight because with a Mavs win, they clinch the season series with Memphis (who currently sits at 9th place, 1 game behind Dallas for the last playoff spot in the West), so in the event of any tie for any playoff position at the end of the season, the tie-breaker will go to the Mavs. The Mavs are currently up 2-0 on the season series with wins over the Grizzlies squad in early November and mid-December with both games being played in Dallas.
Keys to the Game:
1. Have an advantage on the boards: The Memphis Grizzlies have long been known for their relentless hustle and grit and grind play; that is true in some aspects of the game, but not statistically. Since Marc Gasol has come back on January 14th, the Grizzlies rank 19th in the league in rebounds per game, getting outrebounded by the Bucks, Kings and Thunder in that span. This should be music to the ears of fans; however, the Mavs happen to be 28th on that list. On the season, the Mavs have the third worst rebounding rate of the NBA. Shawn Marion (hopes to play despite shoulder injury) , Samuel Dalembert and DeJuan Blair will be leaned on to box out and not allow any offensive rebounds and win the rebounding battle down low.
2. Put the ball in the basket: January 12th. That was the last day the Grizzlies have allowed an opponent to score over 100 points. They might not be getting rebounds, but with Marc Gasol back, Memphis has surged to the top of points allowed per game, with an average of 94.0 in the month of January. Dallas is currently averaging 104.6 points per game on the season, good for 7th in the league. So basically, this is a matchup of one of the best offensive teams going up against one of the best defensive teams. Look for playmakers Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, and Jose Calderon to try to break the balance of this matchup.
Matchup of the Night:
Dirk Nowitzki vs Zach Randolph
With leading scorer Mike Conley sitting this one out with an ankle sprain, expect a lot of the offense to be run through Z-Bo. The double-double machine will certainly have his hands full on the defensive end as he will have to extend his defense beyond the 3 point line to try and guard Dirk Nowitzki. Like-wise, the big German will also have a tough time as he will go up against Randolph on the block who has about 20 pounds of an advantage on the All-Star. Nowitzki goes into the game averaging 21.9 PPG, 12th best in the league. Zach Randolph is averaging 17.4 PPG and 21 over his last 5 games.
“They are a handful; they attack the offensive glass almost every time. They’re persistent at doing that. We’ve just got to make sure we make it hard for them, keep a body on them and run them. They want to play a half-court game. We’ve got to push the tempo of the game and play our tempo. We can’t let them dictate the game. We’ve got to hit them first.” – Shawn Marion on the Grizzlies
“It’s like a gift, it really is. Obviously, the longer you sit over there, the more stiff I get. That was awesome. Every time that happens, I get very excited. The guys did a good job closing it out. That was fantastic.” – A rested Dirk Nowitzki said of not having to check into Monday’s game for crunch time.
When and Where:
The game will tip off at 7:00 CST and will air on Fox Sports Southwest