First Impressions: Mavs Claw Grizzlies
The Dallas Mavericks caught the break of the visiting Grizzlies being shorthanded -- and made short work of Memphis, blitzing to a 105-91 victory.
"We're in a situation where we're one of six or seven teams fighting for two or three playoff spots,'' said coach Rick Carlisle, taking an unusual big-picture view. "That's what it's going to come down to. Concentration and focus and attention to detail are going to carry the day as to who gets in and who has a chance to advance."
Dirk Nowitzki was a centerpiece performer in his first game back after staying home sick from Saturday's equally lopsided blowout of Milwaukee. Here, The Uberman got healthy early, scoring 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting. He also contributed six rebounds and five assists ... and best of all, Dirk only registered 27 minutes because of the way Dallas grabbed the lead and largely maintained it.
That might be enough to earn Nowitzki the Player of the Game award. But who deserves "The Dirkie'' is up to you. Vote here!
Memphis, missing a trio of starters, did cut the lead to four in the third quarter. But Monta Ellis (18 points in the game, 16 of them after intermission) helped slow the comeback attempt. The sometimes-beleaguered Vince Carter also filled the boxscore nicely for the second straight game with 14 points six assists and four boards.
Carlisle said his use of multiple bodies at center would be a "microcosm" of how Dallas will be operating in the future. DeJuan Blair started and got 19 minutes, five rebounds and six points. Brandan Wright played upfront and contributed four points in 13 minutes. Maybe most pivotal, though: Sam Dalembert emerged from a funk to come off the bench for eight points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 13 energetic minutes.
"The mojo is back,'' Dalembert said. "It felt good."
It also felt good to limit Memphis to 39.8-percent shooting; as noted above, Dallas is undefeated when playing defense at that level. Overall, Dallas is now 15-10 as it victimized a Memphis thought to be a contender -- maybe that's part of the reason Rick mentioned playoff jostling -- but instead having fallen to 10-15 with eight losses in its last 10 outings.
And significantly, the Mavs are now 11-2 at the AAC. ... where it's fun to observe -- even if you are one of the participants.
"I was watching from the bench today,'' Jose Calderon said, "and I was like, '(Dirk) makes everything look so easy.'''
It's really not all that easy. But like Rick said: What will "carry the day'' is concentration and focus and attention to detail.
And, lots of times, Dirk.
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