First Impressions: Memphis 91, Mavs 90

Ironically, just after the Mavs' Caron Butler was announced as the in-arena "Player of the Game" near the finish of a very strong performance Friday at the AAC against Memphis, it was a key turnover by "Tuff Juice'' with just under a minute remaining that helped seal a 91-90 loss that was pockmarked by uncharacteristic fourth-quarter turnovers.

On the critical play, Caron tried to pass the ball forward to start a break created by a huge block from Tyson Chandler … only the pass was tipped away and controlled by Memphis.

Lost in the moment of that turnover – one of a sickening total of nine in the final quarter for the Mavs -were the memories of regular attacks into the paint and a total of 18 points, six rebounds (including three at the offensive end), two steals and one block for Butler. Next, Mike Conley was fouled with the Grizzlies down one 90-89. He walked to the line under the serenade of an angry crowd and promptly missed his first attempt, causing the sound in the arena to swell to a deafening roar … only to subside as Conley sunk the next shot to tie the game at 90. In response, the Mavs were given a clear chance to take the lead when Jason Terry's defender fell to the floor, leaving Jet wide open just behind Dirk. He collected himself and … missed the shot. With 29.7 seconds left, Shawn Marion entered the game for the sole purpose of defending Rudy Gay, who led the Grizzlies in scoring with 21 points. The Matrix did his job, forcing Gay into a contested miss. Yet, as he had done all night, Marc Gasol – who was supposed to miss this game along with Zach Randolph due to injury -- grabbed his sixth offensive rebound (No. 15 total for the game) and was immediately fouled by Chandler. Gasol made his first and missed his second, leaving Memphis up one with 6.7 seconds left on the clock.

Where the Mavs have made a practice of executing with precision and efficiency, here they fell apart. The ball made its way to Terry, who quickly looked to get the ball to Dirk, but Gay batted the pass back past Terry and out of bounds with only 1.9 seconds to go.

The Mavs restarted. But then it was Jason Kidd's turn to throw a poor pass that fell behind Terry, bounced away along with any chance for a win. The final burst of turnovers only highlighted a problem present throughout the game, as Dallas totaled 20 giveaways for the game. … and again, nine for the final quarter alone.

With the ending decided, we'll go back to where it all began.

In the Mavs' first game, Tyson Chandler was a surprise start at center, an assignment he again claimed. Against the Grizzlies, it was Gasol filling the role as a surprise inclusion in the starting lineup. Previously announced as out with a sprained ankle, feeling content with his pregame attempts, Gasol felt good enough to give it a go … and made an instant impact with eight points and five rebounds in the first quarter.

Once again, it was Terry getting the start at shooting guard, and once again the Mavs avoided a slow jump from the gate, winning the opening quarter by five, 29-24.

Before the game, coach Rick Carlisle had this to say about Shawn Marion: "Well, he becomes more of a focal point when he comes off the bench. I usually look to get him the ball right away with some play calls."

Once Marion entered the game, his coach's words came true: Marion instantly impacted the game by hitting a couple of quick baskets and provided a wealth of energy on defense. Of all Mavs players, Marion had the best plus/minus with a +7 on his way to 12 points, seven rebounds and a steal. Dirk again led all scorers and finished with 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting to go with seven rebounds. … almost a replay of his Game 1 effort of 28/13.

The Mavs problem on Friday: Memphis is no longer a pushover. They are young. They are talented. They has lost nine straight at the AAC , yes … but they may very well end up being a playoff team. That doesn't make this loss sting any less, and this is a game the Mavs had their chances to put away if not for a collection of poor passes, but it does begin to explain it …

This is one of those losses where the Mavs have reasons, but not excuses.

Assorted Notes:

*Pregame, Carlisle was asked about the adjustment Shawn Marion faces with now coming from the bench, and after Tyson Chandler became the surprise starter for game one against the Bobcats, Carlisle was quick to bring Brendan Haywood into the conversation as well.

"It's not easy, you know, I'd say the same for Haywood." Carlisle stated. "Coming off the bench, it's something he's not used to. But look, these guys all understand that we're trying to win games. That's the priority. They're going to be pro's about it."

*Caron Butler again began the game by attacking the rim, with four of his first six shots coming from the paint … including an athletic offensive rebound and put-back to close the first quarter. Yet, he was only 2-of-6 on for the quarter.

*In the break between the first and second quarter, Jason Kidd's son participated in a baby race on the court. After jumping, or crawling, to a nice lead, he ended up finishing second … but managed to get the crowd going. Something he learned from his father?

*Dirk's streak of free throws without a miss ended at 82, which leaves him at third all-time in terms of consecutive makes. In a one-point loss? Yeah, you'd like to have that one more make.

*After strong first quarters, Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol were shut down in the second. Gasol scored eight points with five rebounds in the opening quarter, but was held scoreless in the second and only grabbed one rebound. Gay did not leave the floor in the first, scoring 10 points, and played almost 10 minutes of the second quarter, where he went scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting.

*Undoubtedly, it will be lost in the outcome of the game … and in his involvement in that outcome. But Caron Butler played the style we've hoped for. He was extremely aggressive and took seven of his 17 shots in the paint, and got there both with the ball and by cutting without it. Early on he struggled to convert, going two for his first eight shots before settling in to go 8-of-17 for the night.

*This was a game of a few runs. Memphis went on an 11-0 run in the third, aided by turnovers from Jason Kidd and Dominique Jones, which was countered by a 10-2 run by the Mavs to close the quarter and retain a six-point lead.

The Grizzlies then began the fourth with a 15-5 run to take an 84-80 lead.

*Misc. Stats: The Grizzlies outscored the Mavs in the paint 34 to 30, and got to the line 12 more times: 36 attempts to Dallas' 24.

The Grizzlies were also dominant on the offensive glass, totaling 14 for the game … which aided them in accruing 16 second-chance points, in comparison to only six for Dallas.

Total rebounds were even at 45, but the second-chance points really hurt the Mavs. And most of all, so did the turnovers. This is a team that prides itself on execution, and in this one, the Mavs only executed themselves.


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