The Lead: After seeing their normally elite defense slide some in the immediate aftermath of the Rudy Gay trade, the Grizzlies have come out of the All-Star break in ferocious form. In all five games since the break, there's been a quarter where they've held the opposition to 15 or fewer points: Twelve in the second against the Pistons. Fourteen in the first against the Raptors. Fifteen in the third against the Magic. Thirteen in the third against the Nets.
Tonight? How about five points in the third quarter for the Mavericks?
But it was even more than that. From the mid-second quarter until late in the third, the Grizzlies' team defense reached beyond the normal threshold, morphing into some kind of wild, seething, pulsating beast. Flying out at shooters, darting to defensive boards, handcuffing ballhandlers, snatching and pestering all over the floor.
The second-quarter ended on a 16-4 run in the final five minutes that included six Dallas turnovers, five of those caused by Griz steals and the other an out of bounds violation spurred by defensive pressure.
Coming out for the third, the Grizzlies held the Mavericks completely scoreless for more than eight minutes and without a field-goal for nearly nine minutes. The Mavericks scored only two baskets in the entire quarter and only one was against a set defense. Spanning the quarters was a 24-0 run, a franchise record. As was the five-point quarter allowed.
The catch tonight was that the Grizzlies had to have that kind of mind-boggling defensive spurt, because it was preceded by a narcoleptic first quarter in which they gave up 38 points before falling behind by 25 points early in the second.
“I don't know what their mindset was coming in,” Lionel Hollins said of his team after the game.
Hollins sensed trouble early. He called a 20-second timeout less than two minutes into the game, down 4-0, and another less than four minutes in, down 10-0.
“I don't want to be a smart-butt, but that's what I get paid to do,” Hollins said when asked about what troubled him enough to call the first timeout. “I saw it at shootaround. I saw it yesterday at practice, actually. So I had a little more insight than just the first two minutes of the game.”
By the 7:10 mark of the first quarter, down 16-2 at that point, Hollins had already pulled four of his starters.
“The guys were pissed at me, but I was pissed at them,” Hollins said.
How did it turn around?
“I reminded them of why they're good,” Hollins said. “When you're a good team sometimes you take things for granted.”
It also seemed like pride kicked in. Reserves Austin Day and Quincy Pondexter kept the team afloat early by making some outside shots, but it was the starters, back in the second quarter, who got the defense revved up and, for the most part, it was the starters who built and held the lead in the second half.
Men of the Match(-up): We have to combine two usual notebook categories to pay proper respect to Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Gasol put up a Garnett/Bird line: 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists. Randolph came close: 22 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists.
In the third quarter comeback, after the Grizzlies missed their first six shots, Gasol and Randolph collaborated on a mid-quarter outburst. Gasol started, with back-to-back mid-range jumpers then, almost literally, passed the baton to Randolph, assisting on consecutive Randolph buckets. After that, Randolph took it himself for one of his familiar but too rarely seen of late pinball driving layups. All together, Gasol and Randolph combined for 14 straight points in a four-minute stretch in which the Mavs were scoreless, turning an 11-point deficit into a three-point lead.
As Quincy Pondexter said after the game, “We got the ball to the big fellas and they carried us.”
And they did work defensively too. Gasol was his usual solid self, but Randolph reached deeper, guarding Dirk Nowitzki — all but demanding the assignment, according the Hollins — for much of the second half, in which Nowitzki scored only two points on 0-5 shooting. Randolph also had three steals and doubled aggressively and effectively along the perimeter in a way that's rarely been seen.
"Zach was playing D, one-on one with Dirk. It was the most wonderful thing I’ve ever seen in my life," Mike Conley said. [Quote credit to @claybailey9]
Elements of Style: O.J. Mayo grew a “playoff beard” two seasons ago with the Grizzlies. Now, with the Mavs, he's growing a .500 beard. The Mavs are now 25-32. They may have to call off this thing pretty soon.
Plays of the game: How about Darrell Arthur for both. At the end of the first half, the Mavericks had the ball and a 15-point lead, with 4.9 seconds left on the clock. They could have extended to 17 or 18 going into the locker rooms, but Arthur stole O.J. Mayo's in-bounds pass and ran past Dirk Nowitzki down the sideline for a two-hand flush that cut the Mavs lead to 13 and gave the Grizzlies momentum. Arthur's at-time game-changing combination of hustle and athleticism factored again in the fourth quarter, when he had the ball stolen by Mavs' speedy point guard Darren Collison, who took off on a breakaway that would have cut the Grizzlies lead from six to four midway through the quarter, but Arthur made-up for his turnover by running Collison down and swatting away his shot right at the rim.
The Jacob Riis Report: Shawn Marion's trade-kicker made it hard for the Mavs to deal him, but he's still a pretty solid player at age 34. Marion led the Mavs tonight with 16 points and 8 rebounds and his quickness, activity, and little flip shots around the paint gave problems to both Tayshaun Prince and Zach Randolph.
Tweet O’ the Game: Zbo just on NBA Network, asked about the next game at Miami...his reply "Oh yea, We Comin!" drops headset&walks off. #GnG — @arnold_babar
Arena Action: Lahna Deering of local roots-rock band Deering & Down performed a charismatic but unconventional anthem as a late addition after the scheduled anthem singer had to bow out earlier in the day. Deering perplexed the audience by having a guitar she didn't play and sheet music she didn't seem to look at. My guess is the sheet music was the result of the last-minute request to perform. The guitar? I'm guessing a performance security blanket in the middle of that huge arena. But maybe she planned to play it and changed her mind. Or maybe it was just a stylistic tic. The rest of Deering's performance bothered some as well, with dramatic hand-gestures and a bluesy grain to her delivery. But I thought she sounded great and, if perhaps a bit theatrical, gave the too-rare impression of thinking through the words she was singing instead of approaching the song as arcane language in the service of note-hitting. Anyway, I approved.
I also approve: The Bongo Lady! The “Bongo Cam” is a new in-arena addition this year and there's one woman whose loopy, joyous commitment to the enterprise is inspired. We need a bongo battle between The Bongo Lady and Tony Allen. Griz game operations: I know you're reading. Let's make this happen.
Where They Stand: The Grizzlies improved to 38-18 and have a three-game lead over the Denver Nuggets for the West's fourth seed.
Looking Ahead: It'll be streak-vs-streak Friday night in Miami, as the Grizzlies put their 8-game win streak up against the defending champion Heat's current NBA-best 12-game streak. ESPN will televise.
Announced Attendance: 16,017
With things not going well, Lionel Hollins tightened the rotation. Tony Wroten DNP'd and Ed Davis played fewer than five minutes.
The current eight-game win streak ties the franchise record. The Grizzlies also tied a franchise record in overcoming a 25-point deficit.
Zach Randolph is on another double-double streak, notching one in all five games since the All-Star break.