The Memphis Grizzlies’ winning streak came to an end Wednesday night as the team lost 103-94 to the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. After an impressive 3-0 start, the Grizzlies stumbled in Dallas, not looking like the same team who upset the Warriors and Rockets just a few nights ago.
Unfortunately, the Grizzlies came out of the gates slow yet again with another lackluster performance against a future lottery team. We saw this problem last year, and Wednesday night it happened again. The team did not show the intensity it had in their first three games while this previously winless Mavericks team came out with the fight.
Dallas controlled the momentum and pace from the beginning, getting ahead early and not letting up. Coach Fizdale talked about his team and said postgame that he “just felt like [they] didn’t come out with the right mentality.” That is exactly what it felt like in that first quarter. Dallas shot 15 free throws in the first quarter, driving to the rim playing hard-nosed basketball.
The Mavericks went up by as many as 19 during the first half and matched each Grizzlies’ run. Marc brought the team back with 12 points in the 3rd quarter but never cleared the hurdle. They closed in late in the game, but it just was not enough to get past them with questionable shot making in the last few minutes of the game. As many people said on Twitter, an Andrew Harrison pull up three cannot be an effective crunch-time offense.
Dallas was led by rookie point guard Dennis Smith who looked as good as advertised. He had 19 points on 8-12 shooting. Smith took advantage of the Grizzlies lack of quick lateral players who can guard a fast point guard off a screen. Harrison Barnes also contributed with 15 but made his presence known going to the free throw line over and over again. It was a simple strategy to control how the game went along for the Mavericks.
Specifically for the Grizzlies, it was a down night for the bench who had greatly helped the cause the first three games. Other than Tyreke Evans who had 13 points, no other player on the bench scored in double digits. Dillon Brooks had a tough time finding a rhythm on offense but again looked very promising on the defensive side of the ball. He came in for Jarell Martin multiple times throughout the game after Martin missed a step (or 5) on defense. Mario Chalmers chipped in with 8 points as Fizdale tested out the small ball lineup again with him and Conley on the floor at the same time. The big negative for Rio was his +/- on the night: -17, not ideal.
Mike Conley and Marc Gasol were again the leading scorers for the Grizzlies scoring 21 and 26 points respectively. Conley went 7-15 with 5 rebounds and 3 assists to add on an average night from him with a few mistakes when the game was getting close. Gasol continued his tear this year, having yet another double-double this time with 11 boards. Another positive from his night was his range expanding away from the rim but still gathering the rebounds. He shot 5-7 from three which will spread the floor out even more for defenses to have to scheme against. Gasol is in a groove so far this season which is a crucial aspect to this Grizzlies’ team.
One other note that needs to be worked on is the free throw percentage from this game. The Grizzlies shot 16-24 from the charity stripe. That just won’t cut it as it shines a light into the team’s mindset and focus during the game. 8 points left on the board, and they lost by 9. No, it isn’t a direct correlation, but that needs to be cleaned up moving forward.
Luckily, the Grizzlies will be able to get their revenge right away as they take on the Mavericks Thursday night back at FedExForum. Fizdale will tune his guys up and will learn from the game’s mistakes. They will have to learn how to beat the bad teams to battle for the playoffs this year. Memphis should come ready to play Thursday night to right the wrong of Wednesday’s lethargic loss.