GAME: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Dallas Mavericks
Time: 7:00 pm CDT
PLACE: The FedExForum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (31-23), Dallas (31-25)
Expected Starting Lineups:
Memphis – Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Marreese Speights, Marc Gasol
Dallas – Delonte West, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood
The Grizzlies are on a bit of a roll against the elite of the league right now. Lakers – check. Thunder – check. Mavericks – grrr. Heat – check. Mavs – hello again. Time to check one more off the list tonight. Over the past couple of weeks, the Grizzlies have beaten three division leaders and are now looking to put the defending champs on the very edge of the playoff bubble. With their win last night in Miami and the Mavs’ loss to Portland, the Grizzlies moved one full game ahead of Dallas in the standings. With a win tonight, they move two games ahead and could push Dallas down to the #8 spot. Sounds good, right? Is there a team in the lower playoff spots that OKC wants to see less than Dallas in the first round?
Last night, the Grizzlies went to South Beach…and they partied. From the first quarter on, they imposed their will on the Heat. They put their collective foot on their opponent’s throat and refused to let them breathe. This team is capable of playing at that level against anyone. The problem, as it often is in the NBA, is that no team can keep that level of play up every single night during the regular season. (Not even the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls could. Look at some of the teams they lost to for evidence of that.) But this was a team playing without its best defender (Tony Allen) and its best post-scorer (Zach Randolph) is still not at 100% yet. This team could be scary good — just in case you haven’t figured that out yet.
Dallas was bipolar last night. There’s no other way to describe it. In the first quarter, they were up by 10. At halftime, it was a 12-point lead. Then in the third quarter….they were outscored by 20. They manage to tie it up in the fourth to force overtime. Then….this happened:
Side note: LaMarcus Aldridge owns the Mavs. He is a Dallas native, after all. He’s averaging almost 29 and 9 against them in his last six games against the defending champs. Those are beastly numbers, just in case you didn’t know.
Dallas is now in the #6 position, only half a game ahead of the #8 spot and 2 games ahead of the #9 spot that Utah currently occupies. Remember that slow start they got off to at the beginning of this season? (They lost their first 5 games, if you need the reminder.) That could come back to haunt them. For the record, they have had 4 losing streaks of 3 games of more this season. Very Jekyll-and-Hyde of them.
Dallas is still without Jason Kidd, and Tony Allen is still questionable for Memphis. For Memphis to win, they need to do exactly what they did last night. Exactly. Nothing different. Defend the perimeter, crash the boards, play stifling defense, and don’t let role players do anything of note. For Dallas to win, they have to hit threes and win the rebounding battle. Oh, and someone other than Dirk has to score at least 17 points.
Prediction: Grizz win, Grizz win, Grizz win. Party on Beale tonight!