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The Memphis Grizzlies came into tonight’s game against the Mavs winners of 11 of their last 13. In the games since Marc Gasol has returned (12), the Grizzlies held every opponent under 100 points. During that span they played the #1, #3, #4 (twice), #5 (twice), #7, #13 (twice), #16, and #30 (twice) scoring teams in the league.  With one exception (the Bucks, #30) each of those teams averages 100 or more points per game. The Grizzlies were one game shy of matching their franchise best record of 8 consecutive games without giving up more than 90 points to an opponent. Tonight, however, the Mavericks would rain on the Grizzlies attempt for the record books, drowning the Grizzlies 110-96.

If the last home game against the Bucks was called “The Nick Calathes Game,” then tonight’s game can be dubbed the “Where is Ed Davis?” game. The Grizzlies started out on fire with Courtney Lee leading the charge with 10 first quarter points, giving the Grizzlies a 26-21 edge. In the first quarter the Grizzlies out rebounded the Mavs, one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, 12 to 5. 5 minutes into the game the Grizz led 16-8. The Mavs were shooting 3-9, and the Grizz were a scorching hot 6-8. ZBO on Dalembert looked like it would prove to be a mismatch that could be exposed all night, with an inside out offensive mindset setting up perimeter guys for open jumpers. With 1:50 left in the first quarter, the Grizzlies led 23-14 and it looked like the streak would remain intact. However, the Mavericks scored 7 points to end the quarter, Dirk scoring 5 of those 7, including a post up fadeaway three pointer (man is HE good). In spite of being up 5, the Grizzlies trailed the Mavs in paint points, 10 to 8, most coming on layups or dunks.

The second quarter opened with the Grizzlies and Mavs trading buckets. However, the pace picked up considerably and the Mavs offense started to click. In addition to the faster pace, the Mavs made some defensive adjustments (aka Brandan Wright and Vince Carter) and the Grizzlies couldn’t get to the rim, settling for jump shots, which at the time, were falling. However, the Mavs continued to get to the rim with ease and ended the half with 26 of their 52 points inside the paint. NOTE: The Mavs came into tonights game averaging 42 points in the paint and giving up 43. The Grizzlies were averaging 47 and giving up 40. In addition to the points in the paint, the Mavs out rebounded the Grizzlies 10-3 in the second quarter. James Johnson scored 11 in the quarter to keep the Grizzlies up at the half 55-52.

There was a quirky clock malfunction to start the final play with 10.1 seconds left in the 2nd quarter. As Calathes picked up the ball, the clock didn’t start for approximately 1-2 seconds. James Johnson ended up making a floater with .5 second on the clock. I noticed it in real time, but didn’t think anything of it, until I saw the officials congregating after the teams went to the locker room. The refs reviewed the play and decided that Johnson’s jumper would be disallowed. It wouldn’t have mattered in the outcome, but it is one of the more strange plays I’ve seen officiated, even if correctly done. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, a 5 point lead would be a 3 point lead.

Then came the second half. It was a dumpster fire. The Grizzlies started out playing better defense, holding the Mavs to 13 points with 4:05 to go in the third quarter, yet the Grizzlies settled for jump shots on offense. My fear at halftime was that the Grizzlies, after shooting 62% in the first half, 11/20 outside the paint, would continue to shoot jumpers and not attack the rim. Unfortunately, that happened. Credit the Mavs defense for packing the paint & forcing the Grizz to take jump shots, but this isn’t college ball. Guys can’t camp out in the lane to keep the offense out of it. The Grizzlies refused to go inside, instead opting for jumper after jumper after jumper. At the 4:05 mark in the 3rd, the game was tied, 65-65. Over the remaining time, the Mavs would score 13 points and the Grizzlies 7. ZBO had all 7 of those points. However, once again the Grizzlies defense collapsed and the paint became “wide open spaces.” The Mavs would score 18 of their 26 third quarter points in the paint. The Grizzlies scored 2 of their 17 in the paint. For the quarter, the Mavs shot 11/20, the Grizzlies 6/19. Mavs headed into the 4th up 78-72.

The 4th quarter was awful. The Mavs scored 32 points to the Grizzlies 24 and ended the game with a 56 to 32 advantage in the paint. Dallas also out rebounded the Grizzlies 35-32. The Grizzlies had 17 turnovers, Nick Calathes & Marc Gasol each had 6, and the Grizz never got closer than 10 over the final 9:33 of the 4th.

It was a very disappointing game from a team who had the 8th seed in its sights and the opportunity to gain one in the loss column over a divisional rival, and hope to get a season series split. However, the Mavericks wanted it more and had more weapons tonight. Dallas now leads the season series 3-0 with the fourth and final game coming as the last game of the regular season. The Grizzlies now need to hope they are securely into the playoffs by the time that game comes around. If it comes down to the Mavs and Grizzlies, they need to be up 2 games on the Mavs, because if they are only up 1 game, and lose, the Mavs would win the tie break.

The announced crowd of 16,188 in attendance tonight, was lacking energy. I’m not sure if it was the cold weather or Dirk’s stellar play that kept them out of the game, but it was noticeable.

In the post game press conference, Coach Joerger took responsibility for not having the team prepared for Dallas’s multiple PnR looks. He thought they were ready, but obviously not, and he took responsibility. I guess he can do that since he won Western Conference Coach of the Month for January. Coach Joerger also said that he chose not to play Ed Davis strictly as a matchup issue. More on that below.

I apologize for not having Coach’s post game audio. It didn’t turn out great tonight (again), so I will refer you to the Grizzlies post game press conference video, if you’d like to hear the coach’s thoughts.

My Takeaways:

1. Jon Leuer came in and gave some great minutes tonight. I thought he rebounded well, and played well enough to stretch the defense in spots. He grabbed 3 boards in 10 minutes. However, he only took 1 shot. He played alongside Zach Randolph, giving Marc some rest. Leuer, however, was overmatched against Dirk or Brandan Wright, guys he guarded in multiple spots.

2. Marc Gasol has had two consecutive games where he has not played well. Tonight he wore a knee brace. I’m not sure how he is feeling, and he won’t ever give you an honest answer, but I’d say he isn’t up to 100%, maybe 75-80%. Tonight, his defense was not able to contain the more elusive and long Dirk Nowitzki and Brandan Wright. Gasol was slower and had to play out of the paint, where they were able to shake him and get easy buckets. When Gasol plays like he did on defense, the Grizzlies will have a tough time winning. However, if Gasol plays like he did on defense, and also has 6 turnovers 3 rebounds and goes 3-6 from the field, it will be an uphill battle to win games.  With Mike Conley out, I don’t care what happens, he has to be aggressive going to the basket from the low block or taking the shot at the elbow.

3. The first 2 takeaways lead me (sort of) to my next point, Ed Davis. Yea, Ed Davis didn’t play tonight. Coach Joerger said it was because of match ups. However, strictly on the eye test, it would seem that Brandan Wright would be a better matchup for Ed Davis than Jon Leuer or Zach Randolph. Ed did play 23 minutes last game against the Mavs and scored 12 points, in Gasol’s absence. I don’t understand why Joerger didn’t at least throw Davis out there for a few minutes to see what he would get from him. Marc wasn’t having a great game and Kosta played 8 minutes for you (was +6), and Leuer obviously was not able to guard Dirk, so why not Ed? I guess we will never know. Some mentioned on Twitter they thought a trade was imminent for Davis. Maybe so, however, both Leuer and Koufos have missed entire games since Gasol’s return. Joerger does this. Only difference is, in those games, the Grizzlies won them so no one questioned him.

4. Courtney Lee & James Johnson are _______________ (insert your own words). They combined for 39 points on 16-26 shooting, 4-8 from deep, grabbed 6 boards, 5 assists, 1 steal, 2 turns and 5 blocks (!). James Johnson had 4 blocks, one of them on a 3 pointer, again. These guys are producing, even if they don’t score like this every game. It will be tough to back off any of their minutes when TA returns.

5. Tayshaun Prince was the only player who played double digit minutes, and did not score. He was 0/3, but did grab 4 rebounds and had 2 assists. In a game like tonight, playing 23:29 and not scoring is amazingly bad. Dallas is a bad matchup for him with their athleticism and speed on the wings, however, I expected more from him.

6. Nick Calathes played amazing in the lack of Mike Conley yet again. He finished with 16 points on 50% shooting, 5 boards, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 6 turns. Yes those turnovers were bad. As the pace became frenetic, Calathes started to do too much and made a few errant passes. However, he is proving that he can shoot the ball. His defense also kept Jose Calderon and Devin Harris in check, only allowing 8 points by the two.

7. Newly signed Grizz PG Darius Morris got the see the court for the first time tonight. He played 7:25 and took one three point shot. He had 1 assist and 1 turnover and didn’t destroy the offense (anymore than it already was) when he played. He held the status quo.

Finally, my conclusion to this game is simple, Rick Carlisle out coached Dave Joerger tonight. Coach Joerger admitted it and it showed. Everytime a sub was made, Carlisle had a matchup that would expose the weakness of a Grizzlies player. He did it starting in the 2nd quarter and continued it all the way through the end of the game. Carlisle called a timeout once the Grizzlies had scored on 2 or 3 consecutive possessions. Mike Conley wasn’t the reason we lost this game. The Grizzlies were not prepared and did not play good defense on the PnR tonight. It showed. Sometimes you have bad games. The bench aside from James Johnson, was relatively missing. It is unfortunate that such a meaningful game was the dud. Marc Gasol said after the game, “You lose, you move on. You win, you move on. There really is no other way around it.” Agreed big fella.

The next 4 games before the All Star break are against Eastern conference teams. 3 of the 4 are on the road, but the Grizzlies need to win 3 of these games in order to stay in the hunt. There are 34 games left. Going 24-10 over those games would almost guarantee you a playoff spot. That is what the Grizzlies need to shoot for. March is a brutal month. Winning all four of these next games, could set the tone for the remainder of the season. Coach Joerger said in his press conference that these next 4 games are the biggest games of the season. I tend to agree. Let’s win them all and be 30-22 headed into the All Star break.

As the good Eric Hasseltine says “Never too high after a win, and never too low after a loss.” Go Grizz!

For more Grizzlies analysis and stats during the week, follow me on Twitter @zacaharytthomas. 

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