The Lead: Dirk Nowitzki made his return for the Mavericks but didn't look good early on, moving gingerly and getting exploited defensively. Four minutes into the third quarter, his team down 53-41, Nowitzki was called for a foul while trying to check Zach Randolph on the block and decided he'd had enough, talking himself into two technical fouls and getting a much-desired ticket back to the locker room.
Nowitzki finished with seven points on 2-7 shooting. No one else was able to step up for a struggling Mavs team that has now lost five straight games and eight of its past 10, while the Grizzlies took care of the ball (nine turnovers through three quarters), shared it (20 assists on 36 made field-goals), and were focused defensively. The result was a fairly dominating buzzer-to-buzzer performance for the Grizzlies, who built a 10-point lead midway through the first quarter and never had less than a three-possession cushion the rest of the way before turning the game into a route in the third quarter.
Man of the Match: Before the game, Grizzlies general Manager Chris Wallace recognized Zach Randolph for dual recent accolades, being named the Western Conference Player of the Week and getting the NBA's Community Assist Award for the month of December. Then Randolph went out and continued his streak of gaudy performances, slicing up the Mavericks' depleted frontcourt to the tune of 23 points and 20 rebounds, his fourth 20-20 game of the season his sixth in two seasons with the Grizzlies. Randolph is averaging 26 and 14 on 54% shooting so far this month. After a somewhat rocky summer, Z-Bo is back in beast mode — in the best possible way — both on and off the court.
Nightly Number: A snowball effect produced some ugly shooting numbers on both ends of the floor tonight.
Sticking out amid all the good news from the Grizzlies tonight was an abysmal performance from O.J. Mayo, the subject of recent trade rumors and mired in what has been essentially a season-long shooting slump. Maybe played perhaps his worst offensive game of the season, starting 0-3 with a jumper, a runner, and a finger roll all missing. Mayo was struggling, then began pressing, and then only struggled more. With Tony Allen and Xavier Henry both out to injury, Mayo still played 27 minutes, but finished with 1-10 shooting in 27 minutes (his only make an uncontested lay-up off a Zach Randolph feed). Most attempts misfired badly and Mayo also had several ill-advised or ineffective passes.
As for the trade rumors, my sense is that a Mayo trade before next month's deadline is now likely but not definite. As for the rumor of the Knicks "being interested" in getting the Grizzlies into a three-way deal with the Nuggets that would send Mayo to Denver, I'm told that that reported interest has not yet manifested itself in an actual discussion between the teams on that subject. My best guess is that if anything happens with Mayo, it wouldn't happen until after the Carmelo Anthony situation is settled.
While Mayo was launching duds for the Grizzlies, the entire Mavs team was doing the same. The Mavericks were 2-13 from three-point range in the first half, but with the team down double-digits and lacking a good halfcourt scoring option in the absence of Nowitzki, they didn't have much choice but to keep heaving them up in the second half in an attempt to mount a comeback. The result was an ugly 6-31 long-range shooting night for the Mavs, with 10 different players hoisting three-pointers for the team.
The Match-Up: Mike Conley didn't exactly have a great game, but he was a solid floor manager, scoring eight points on 3-6 shooting, with six assists to zero turnovers. But Conley won the point guard match-up essentially by default. With Nowitzki hobbling and then out of the game, future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd had to be the leader for the Mavs and, sadly, though he played more than 30 minutes, I can barely remember anything he did tonight. Kidd finished with three points on 1-7 shooting, four rebounds and four assists.
The Jacob Riis Report: Not only did the Mavs only get 15 minutes from Dirk Nowitzki tonight, but were without starting center Tyson Chandler, who has had a bounce back season but missed tonight's game due to illness. The one bright spot for the Mavs was young, physical big man Ian Mahinmi who came off the bench for a team-high 17 points on 6-6 shooting and six rebounds (four offensive) in 22 minutes. Mahinmi was a presence around the rim. Can the Griz trade Hasheem Thabeet (four minutes, zero points, zero rebounds, zero blocks) for him?
Arena Action: It was "Kid's Night" at the Forum, with a seven-year old understudy helping PA announcer Rick Trotter with the pre-game introductions and the usual Griz Girls cheerleaders replaced at times with an — appropriately dressed, thank god — kiddie corps.
Where They Stand: The win moves the Grizzlies to 19-21, a game back of the 8th seed Portland Trailblazers, pending the Blazers late home game against the New Jersey Nets.
Looking Ahead: The Grizzlies host the Chicago Bulls for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day game Monday. A free MLK Jr. Day symposium, honoring the great Willie Mays and NBA hall-of-famers Lenny Wilkens and Willis Reed, will take place at the team's practice facility at FedExForum at 10 a.m. The game will tip-off at noon and will be nationally televised on ESPN.
Announced Attendance: 15,812
The Grizzlies got nice production from secondary players Darrell Arthur and Sam Young tonight, who combined for 26 points on 10-14 shooting and had five blocks (four of them from Young). The duo did a good job of letting their teammates set them up for good shots rather than forcing the action.
Greivis Vasquez also continued to solidify himself as a major factor behind Mike Conley at the point. Vasquez had four assists and zero turnovers in 19 minutes, connection on an alley-oop with Arthur in what has become a common sight and hitting 2-3 on long-range attempts.
The Grizzlies have now won 10 of their past 12 home games and are 8-3 at home against the Western Conference.
The Mavericks 70 points are an opponent season-low for the Grizzlies.