By Robert Scalice
If people ever wondered what the Dallas Mavericks would look like if they were hitting on all cylinders, the answer came last night at American Airlines Center: pretty darn good.
The Mavs, playing host to one of the NBA’s best teams, put an old-fashioned butt-whipping on the Memphis Grizzlies, dismantling them 104-83 and rendering the 4th quarter a mere formality. It was easily the Mavericks’ most impressive performance of the season as they won consecutive games for the first time in a month and look to gather themselves and possibly make a run at a playoff spot in the second half of the season.
Dallas set the tone early, closing the first quarter with a 17-6 run to lead 25-18. They then stretched their lead to 32-20 in the opening minutes of the second quarter as the Grizz, likely feeling the effects of their hard-fought overtime win over San Antonio the night before, looked slow and lethargic for nearly the entire half.
The Mavs continually beat the Grizzlies down the floor for transition buckets and were sparked by the play of Shawn Marion as “The Matrix” scored 12 of his season-high 20 points in the first half, making 5 of his 6 field goal attempts, including 2 of 2 from three point land.
About half-way through the second quarter, Dallas increased its’ lead to 45-27 and could smell the blowout about to unfold, eventually taking a 54-39 halftime lead into the locker room. The Mavericks put the game away shortly thereafter, starting the 3rd quarter with a 9-4 spurt culminating with Darren Collison stripping the ball from Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph and then finding Chris Kaman in the lane for a jump hook that made it 63-43.
Kaman had a solid game for Coach Rick Carlisle’s crew, scoring 14 points on a variety of post moves and grabbing 7 rebounds. The Mavericks were using excellent ball movement and crisp interior passing throughout the contest to shred a Memphis defense that was ranked 2nd in the league and were even beating the big, physical Grizz on the boards.
Dirk Nowitzki, continuing his comeback from knee surgery, is slowly but surely looking more and more like the “old” Dirk- he contributed 17 points to the win, including all 3 of his shots from behind the line. One of those long-range bombs put the Mavs up by 30 at 95-65, their biggest lead of the game.
Dallas received 10 points, 6 assists and 4 steals from Collison and 11 points from leading scorer O.J. Mayo as all 5 starters scored in double-figures. Off the bench, Elton Brand added 10 points and 9 rebounds in 18 minutes. For the Grizzlies, they were led by Rudy Gay with 12 points and Dallas-area native Darrell Arthur with 11 points and 9 boards; Josh Selby put up 10 garbage time points for Memphis.
The Mavericks held Randolph to 6 points and center Marc Gasol to 8 and made life difficult all night long on the already-weary Grizzlies, holding them to 38 percent shooting for the game while forcing them into 18 turnovers.
Offensively, the Mavs were able to get a balanced scoring attack, not having to rely so much on Mayo, and knocked down 11-17 shots from downtown. The win ups Dallas’ record to 15-23 while Memphis drops to 24-11 with the defeat.
With Nowitzki rounding into form, last night’s dominating showing may provide a glimmer of hope that the best of the Dallas Mavericks is still yet to be seen.