The Grizzlies weren't torched by Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki tonight. Nowitzki suffered a sprained ankle in the first half and limped, literally, to only 12 points on 6-14 shooting. Instead, the two key elements I cited in my game preview went awry. After containing Jason Terry (13 points) in the win at Dallas earlier this season, the Grizzlies let Terry get off tonight, with 25 points (11-16 shooting) and 4 assists off the bench. And after winning the center battle rather decisively in Dallas, it went the other way tonight. Marc Gasol, who is clearly not at 100 percent, struggled, with 10 points (4-9) and 5 rebounds, with Hasheem Thabeet, shockingly, giving the Grizzlies nothing in six minutes off the bench. Meanwhile, the Mavericks big-man duo of Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood looked alive tonight, combining for 17 points and 16 rebounds.
The Grizzlies showed a bit of life in the second quarter, bringing the team to within a few points behind a scoring burst from Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph, but otherwise the Mavs controlled this game from buzzer to buzzer. Lionel Hollins spent most of the second half shuffling players in and out of the lineup searching for a spark. He never found it.
Man of the Match: No-one is really worthy of this tonight. Zach Randolph had the best statline, with 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists, but you never sensed he was impacting the game in any meaningful way, except during that little second-quarter mini-run. Instead, I'll give it to an unlikely figure: Tony Allen.
Allen emerged from his two-game DNP purgatory in the third quarter and gave the team 10 reasonably persuasive minutes. Unsurprisingly, Allen looked better on the wing than on the ball when the team went — briefly — to an Allen/Mayo backcourt. And, sure, his five field-goal attempts in 10 minutes is not the shot frequency you want from Allen. But he made some plays — two buckets, two boards, and three assists in those 10 minutes — and if he wasn't exactly a game-changing defensive stopper, he clearly has stronger defensive instincts — by which I mean, in part, that he shows an instinct to defend — than the team's other perimeter players.
I've heard from multiple team sources that Allen has gotten on the coaching staff's bad side due to an outsized sense of what his role should be and a generally pouting attitude. But I've also been told that this is not quite a rift and not something that can't be overcome. Allen does need to accept that his role in Boston is the only role he can really play — as an energy guy and defensive specialist. But if he can do that, then he clearly needs to be in the rotation for this team.
Nightly Number: 1. That's Rudy Gay's number of free-throw attempts tonight. Gay played 39 minutes and took 18 shots and got to the line exactly once. Twelve of Gay's 18 attempts were from the perimeter, with six of them from long-range. And he made four of those 12 shots. Gay's breakout this season has been built, in large part, on improved shooting and lower turnovers. But it can't be all jumpers and transition baskets for Gay. He needs to impose his athleticism on the game in halfcourt sets. A crucial snapshot of this problem tonight: At the end of the first half, Gay found himself isolated on the baseline against Brian Cardinal. And he settled for a jumper. If you don't want to take Brian Cardinal to the rack, whom do you want to attack?
The Match-Up: The aforementioned center match-up was a quiet key I thought. Chandler and Haywood have been erratic this season, but both are capable of being strong interior presences, and were so tonight. And a banged-up Gasol started 1-4 when cross-matched against Nowitzki and just never got in a groove.
The Jacob Riis Report:With Caron Butler out with a back injury, Shawn Marion moved into the Mavs' starting lineup. And with point guards Jason Kidd and Juan Jose Barea (combined 19 assists) carving up the Grizzlies' frazzled defense, a fading Marion had a flashback game — finishing well off set-ups around the rim to the tune of 20 points on 10-15 shooting. Every Marion make — and all but one attempt — came in the paint.
Tweet O’ the Game:
Brian Cardinal checks in game for Mavs. His contract should be in the rafters here - it was legendary. — @ChrisVernonShow
Arena Action:Fittingly for this game, I noticed nothing interesting off the court either.
Where They Stand: This loss moves the Grizzlies to 4-5, still fourth place in the Southwest Division.
Looking Ahead: The rough early schedule just gets rougher. The Grizzlies welcome the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics to the Forum Saturday and then travel to face the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.
Announced Attendance: 10,767. A bad crowd for a bad game.
O.J. Mayo had perhaps the worst game I've ever seen him play, with four points on 1-8 shooting. Shockingly, he only had two turnovers. It felt like more. And his backcourt mate, Mike Conley, wasn't a whole lot better.
Xavier Henry hit another long two-point jumper, his toe just over the three-point line. The word is this is the 11th such shot he's made this season. This number seems high to me, and I can't verify it, but it's certainly happened a lot.
Rookie Greivis Vasquez got into the game in the final minute and sank a three-pointer for his first NBA basket. Current back-up point guard Acie Law made a couple of shots tonight, but I still don't see him holding the job all season — especially since his contract, as I understand it, is not fully guaranteed. My guess is that Vasquez gets a shot at this job sometime in the next month, though perhaps not without a bit of D League seasoning first.