The Dallas Mavericks had one job during Wednesday night’s season finale against the Memphis Grizzlies—lose.
Of course, for the lotto to happen just right, they would also have to hope for a Sacramento win over the Clippers, but that was out of their control. Unfortunately, despite leaving Dirk, Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews and J.J. Barea at home, the Mavs managed to overpower the Grizzlies late, and come away with a 100-93 win on the road.
“We had a strategy in the last five or six games,'' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "We were going to play our veterans early, finish with the younger guys and let the chips fall where they may.''
For Mavs fans, it is surely maddening that the "chips fell'' ... and with them, the Mavs' chance to pick a little higher in the NBA Draft fell, too. Perhaps if this team had starting tanking sooner, they would be picking in the top six. (In the end, the Mavs are just two games better than that No. 6 slot.) Now, after Wednesday’s win ... which comes a day after an effort so tankeriffic that Dallas lost to the Nuggets with Tony Romo in uniform ... oh, well. (Mavs Premium fans get to come inside the Mavs/Cowboys/Romo after-party, exclusively, here.)
As frustrating as this win might be however, at the same time, you can’t really blame the guys on the floor.
Guys like Nico Brussino, A.J. Hammons, Dorian Finney Smith and Jarrod Utoff are all guys looking to gain some valuable experience, and make an impression on the coaching staff. The hope for these kids is, with any luck, they prove to the Mavs’ brass that they belong on the roster, and in some cases, in the rotation next season.
Brussino for example, is a guy who has proven that he has the ability to contribute in real games. Wednesday night was no exception.
Brussino led the Mavs in scoring, tallying his career-best 15 points, seven rebounds and two assists in 37 minutes. He was also efficient, shooting 50 percent from the field, as well as from three. He was, alongside Nerlens Noel, the most impressive of the young players on the floor for Dallas.
Noel played just 23 minutes, but scored 10 points, and grabbed seven rebounds, while adding a block and a steal. He also played extremely well in the screen-and-roll game with Devin Harris, throwing down multiple lobs in the process.
Other performances of note include 15 points off the bench from veteran guard Devin Harris, as well as 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting from Uthoff.
"The group that was out there at the end, everybody did something good," Carlisle said. "All of this stuff really helps these guys get better." (Who in the group deserves "The Dirkie''? You vote!)
On the other hand, the Grizzlies, who are locked in the the seventh seed in the playoff race, played their starters for a while, but would ultimately pull them in the second half.
Marc Gasol had 13 points and eight boards in 24 minutes, while Mike Conley had 15 in just 17 minutes, and Zach Randolph added 15 in just 20 minutes off the bench.
Former Mavs lightning rod Chandler Parsons didn’t play.
The Grizzlies shot just 39 percent as a team, and 32 percent from three, while Dallas shot 44 percent as a team. Memphis did, however, out-rebound Dallas 48-37, while also winning in the paint 40-32.
Now, with the regular season over and a critical offseason on the horizon, Dallas has their eyes set on the May 16th lottery. We will have to wait until then before we truly know the Mavs final draft position; they sit now with the No. 9 spot in the lotto. With any luck, they will find themselves in position to draft a franchise changing talent, and move into the July free-agency period with some momentum.
Either way one thing is certain: By "letting the chips fall'' rather than controlling what it could control. Dallas did itself no favors on Wednesday night, finishing 33-49 and now reliant even more on the fate of the ping-pong balls to determine part of the future of their franchise.