DONUT 1: Magic Number Talk!
Coming into the Friday as winners of five straight and in sole possession of the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoff race, the Mavs welcomed the Memphis Grizzlies to town for a showdown that was crucial for both teams. In the end, however, it would be the Mavs that would get that much-needed (and sixth-straight) victory, as they used a big second half on both ends of the floor to take down the Grizzlies, 103-93.
And Dirk Nowitzki, after a few rough games in a row, finally bounced back against Memphis, scoring 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
After averaging just 12.3 points over the last six games coming in, it was nice Dirk regain his form against a tough defensive team, leading Dallas in scoring in a win that puts the Mavs' magic number for the playoffs at one.
DONUT 2: JJB Down
In scary moment for the Mavs, J.J. Barea would be forced to leave the game midway through the first quarter with a groin injury. The timing of J.J.’s injury could not be worse with the regular season winding down, and the Mavs short on guards. Not to mention, J.J. has been the Mavs best scorer over their streak, averaging north of 24 points per game over that stretch. If. J.J. is forced to miss even one game moving forward, the Mavs playoff hopes could be in serious jeopardy. ... though if that "one game'' is Sunday afternoon at the Clippers, maybe it wouldn't be so horrible.
Hang tight. Allow us to explain in a bit.
DONUT 3: First-Quarter Review
A sloppy first quarter on both sides led to a defensive-minded period, with the Mavs trailing the Grizzlies 21-18 heading into the second. Both teams turned the ball over a whopping five times, with the Mavs shooting an ice-cold 37.5 percent from the field. Dirk and David Lee would combine for 13 points to lead Dallas, while Zach Randolph would score eight in the opening quarter to lead the Grizzlies.
DONUT 4: Second-Quarter Review
Both offenses flexed their muscles a bit more in the second quarter, with both teams scoring 28 points apiece. For the Grizzlies, Tony Allen caught fire on the offensive end (wait, did we actually just write that?), scoring 11 points in the quarter. Meanwhile on the Mavs side, Justin Anderson -- who would end up being a major storyline here -- had seven points of his own, as the Mavs shot 52.9 percent from the field and 57 percent from three.
DONUT 5: Third-Quarter Review
Devin Harris stepped up big time for the Mavs in this one, scoring 16 points, all of which came in the second half of play. One of the strengths of this team from the beginning of the season and throughout has been their depth in the backcourt, and this was just another example of that.
Indeed, behind 12 third-quarter points from Harris, the Mavs took control of the game, outscoring Memphis 28-19, and taking a 74-68 lead into the final period. Dirk and Wes Matthews would also combine for 13 points, as the Mavs shot just over 58 percent from the floor in the frame. Tony Allen meanwhile, led the Grizzlies yet again with six points.
And hey, if Tony Allen is your opponent's leading scorer and best offensive weapon in a game, chances are things are going to work out in your favor.
DONUT 6: Taking It Home
Raymond Felton filled in quite nicely as the Mavs' main point-guard option in the absence of Barea. Though Felton scored just 11 points, he showed us that he’s capable of being more than just a scorer, dishing out 14 assists along the way. Ray-Ray was finding his teammates in great spots all night, especially in the fourth quarter.
“I feel like I’ve been in a boxing match,'' Felton said of the Grizz. "That’s the type of team they are. They’re very physical. They make it real gritty and it’s alright. You have to do whatever it takes and put your face in there in order to get a win and that’s what I did.”
In the end, the short-handed Mavs would end up victorious behind a valiant effort from Felton, Anderson, Harris and The UberMan, coming away with a massive 103-93 win over the Grizzlies. With the win, the Mavs are just one game back of Memphis for the sixth seed in the West, and have secured their 16th straight season with a .500 or better record. Only the Spurs have been more successful over that amount of time, with 19 straight seasons of .500 or better basketball.
Add it all up and Dallas is 41-38 and sitting on that magic number of one.
DONUT 7: Slow-Blowing The Tuba
Since taking on this kind of slower-paced, defensive-minded style of play, the Mavs have been a tough team for opposing teams to figure out. The Mavs have just given up just 87 points per game over their win streak, while averaging in the mid-90's themselves. It’s been a shocking turnaround to say the least, considering that two of their best talents have been sidelined due to injury. But this is why Rick Carlisle is one of the top two or three coaches in the NBA right now.
John Lennon said, “I'm an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I'll bring you something out of it.” Well in this case Carlisle is the artist, and even if you give him an injury-riddled roster -- no Parsons, no D-Will, maybe no JJB -- he’ll make something out of it.
DONUT 8: But Them, Too
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies have been crushed by injuries for much of the second half of this season. Since the All-Star Break, Memphis is just 11-14 and trending in the wrong direction, losing 10 of the last 13. From Marc Gasol’s foot injury to Mike Conley’s Achilles injury to even Brandan Wright’s MCL problem, the Grizzlies are in a lot of trouble right now.
The biggest blow for Memphis this season has been the loss of Conley to that Achilles injury. Since arriving in Memphis, Conley has been one of the most underrated players the NBA has to offer. He does everything well, and has arguably been one top-10 point guards in the league in the last few years. He has also been the heart and soul of a team that has made the playoffs every year since 2010-2011. Before his injury, the Grizzlies were 38-25, and Conley was averaging 15.3 points and 6.1 assists per contest, with a 4.1 assist to turnover ratio. Since the loss of Conley, the Grizz are just 5-16, and are in the midst of a serious collapse.
Thanks to injuries, 28 different players have seen the floor for the Grizzlies this year at one point or another. They continue to fight hard, but their season and foothold in the playoff race are quickly vanishing from beneath their feet.
Really, when they look down, what they see right now is Dallas in hot pursuit of sixth. Sixth, which would allow the Mavs to remain playoff underdogs, of course, but would mean they wouldn't have to open against the Warriors or Spurs.
DONUT 9: Simba Roars
11. The growth of Justin Anderson is something we keep talking about, but it becomes more and more relevant with each and every game. On Friday, Anderson was decisive, went after the ball, made smart plays, and was pesky on the defensive end.
“Justin had a big game,'' Felton said. "I’m proud of that kid. It’s all about that rookie process of not playing then getting thrown out there. Now he has a great opportunity with some guys getting injured. He’s starting and he’s doing great.”
We're not sure that two weeks ago, anybody would have though that we would be talking about Justin Anderson scoring a career-best 19 points and hitting 60 percent from downtown while grabbing 10 boards for his double-double, but that’s where we are right now.
DONUT 10: Who Deserves 'The Dirkie'?
The Dirkie/Player of the game: This was a tough one, but considering the situation, we decided to tab Raymond Felton for the ‘Dirkie.' The Mavs were two point guards down, and Felton responded with 11 points, 14 assists and six rebounds, and guided the Mavs down the stretch as the Grizzlies made their final desperate push.
But this is a democracy, so head over to DB.com Boards and give us your choice for the Dirkie!
DONUT 11: Mavsellaneous
The Mavs finished the game shooting 50 percent from the field, and just under 40 percent from three. Meanwhile on the other side, Dallas held Memphis to just 40 percent from the field overall. ... No Saturday practice for the Mavs ... The Mavs made 31-39 from the free throw line, which was big factor as the Grizzlies tried to make their final push. ... Jonny Auping has a one-on-one with Zach Randolph on the greatness of Dirk that is a darn good read ... "Guys like Anderson crashed the glass when they missed and got offensive put-backs,'' said Allen. "They hit some end-of-the-clock shots they were deadly. I thought they took advantage of locking in on all cylinders.''
DONUT 12: The Final Word
The Mavs (41-38) travel west for their final matchup of the season with DeAndre Jordan and the Los Angeles Clippers at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Staples Center. This will be the Mavs toughest test since they’ve adopted this lessen-possessions style of play ... unless the Mavs opt to not really take the test at all.
“We are going to figure it out, that is all I can tell you,'' Carlisle said of how to play his tuba. "When you lose guys, you are losing versatility. We are going to have to be resourceful. I am going to have to make sure I am substituting the right way so guys aren’t getting too many long stretches. With that said, we are going to have guys playing big minutes, guys playing into the middle-thirties. Especially our perimeter guys, we have four guys playing three perimeter spots. You basically have one depth guy. We have guys that can play multiple positions. Harris can play 1 and 2, Wes can play 2 and 3, Anderson plays mostly 3, but he can play 2. We just have to figure it out.”
Or ... You concede the Clippers game on Sunday knowing that you are at Utah on Monday, and that the second game is the more winnable one. Carlisle's not ready to go there yet, but it's a discussion item you can be a part of here.