If they factored injury problems into strength of schedule rankings, the Grizzlies would be head an shoulders above the rest of the league. Even without a curve, their schedule is the third toughest. After suffering their 10th home loss of the season last night, the Grizz played the second game of a back-to-back on the road with two starters out: Mike Conley (thigh) and Tayshaun Prince (knee). Mike Miller and Jerryd Bayless started in their place.
The James Johnson signing gave Joerger 10 bodies to work with for the night, but against a team loaded with playmakers, defensive stops were hard to come by. The Grizz now have a 5-game losing streak on their hands, their longest in two years, and remain winless against southwest division opponents.
Either out of necessity or perhaps a sense that deep rotations and 30+ point first quarters are related, Joerger was sparing with his subs in the early going. Jon Leuer (entering at 6:13 to go) was the only bench player in the game until Ed Davis and Nick Calathes came in to see out the quarter, and the Grizzlies did manage, barely, to hold Dallas under 30. Were it not for the turnovers (6), and subsequently terrible fast-break defense, it would have been a much closer period - the Grizz held Dallas to 11-24 shooting, but twice the Mavs got transition baskets off of defensive rebounds (and not long ones).
The offense revolved around Tony Allen as he took 10 first-quarter shots (making 3 of them), 7 more than the next highest Grizzly. A Jon Leuer 3 and a Tony tip-in made it a one-point game, but the Mavs then scored five straight to make it 27-21.
Vince Carter hit a 3 to open the second quarter and push the Mavs lead to 9. The Grizz countered with a (comic? tragic?) line-up that consisted of Calathes, Leuer, Davis, Johnson, and Franklin. The result was much as you'd expect: Dirk scored 8 straight to open up an 11-4 run. When Nowitzki sat, Ed Davis helped the Grizz whittle the lead back down to 10, but despite his and Tony Allen's frantic efforts, the Dallas lead hovered around 15 for the rest of the quarter as the Grizz offense unraveled out of fatigue and frustration. The Mavs took a 52-39 lead into halftime, having held the Grizz starters to 24 points (Z-Bo 2/8, Bayless 1/4, Koufos 1/3) and the team to 36% shooting.
Not that the officials could be blamed for the Grizzlies' terribleness, but a handful of questionable fouls, and-1's, and no-calls made it even more difficult for Memphis to come back from yet another deficit in the third quarter. They continued to feed Z-Bo in the post, and Tony Allen notched his first double-double of the season as Memphis pulled within 4 late in the quarter, but Nowitzki and Ellis reentered the game and pushed it back to 12 against a foul-wary defense.
The Mavs continued to pour it on as the fourth quarter started with the help of Vince Carter (14 points in off the bench in 30 minutes) and a pair of Memphis turnovers. James Johnson looked capable in garbage time, working well underneath with Jon Leuer and even hitting a pair of threes - but even as the Grizzlies pulled back to within 12, it still felt like a blowout.
Jerryd Bayless miffed his second transition opportunity in as many nights with 7 minutes remaining and Jae Crowder got an easy dunk out of it, at which point Dave Joerger called a timeout to go warm up the bus. The Mavs gunned it across the finish line to take the 105-91 victory.
Tony Allen was valiant in defeat, with 16 points and 11 rebounds (tying a career high), including 10 offensive rebounds. By the fourth quarter he was literally bleeding. Watching TA go all out while the rest of the Grizzlies lumbered around was like watching a caffeinated child run into doors while his parents took a smoke break. Except more depressing.
Let's hope the Grizz can pull themselves together and avoid embarrassment against the New York Knicks on Saturday, who are currently in double overtime against...the Milwaukee Bucks. Sigh.
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