Going to do a shorter-than-usual notebook for this one. Will finish up the “Mid-Season Player Notes” series Thursday.
The Lead: After winning five of six games before the All-Star break, the Grizzlies continued their winning ways to begin the second half, beating the defending champion and division rival Dallas Mavericks. With losses from a trio of other conference competitors — the Spurs, Rockets, and Blazers — the Grizzlies, at 20-15, are now closer to the third seed (1.5 games back) than they are to falling out of the playoffs (a two-game cushion).
It wasn't always pretty (the teams combined to shoot 6-35 from three-point range) and the Grizzlies got some help from the Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki labored without a field goal through 10 minutes of game time, having his lone shot, a baseline fade-away jumper, blocked by Marc Gasol before retreating to the locker room for the rest of the night with lower back tightness. But the Grizzlies got a bravura tag-team performance from Mike Conley (20 points, 10 assists, 4 steals) and Marc Gasol (22 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks), who, appropriately, connected for the team's final field goal, a baseline feed from Gasol that Conley converted at the rim.
Now they'll head into a winnable weekend — at 11-24 Toronto Friday, home against 12-25 Detroit Saturday — with real chance to push into upper half of the Western Conference playoff standings.
Man of the Match: Coming off his first All-Star nod, Marc Gasol played the kind of tough, skilled all-around game that makes him arguably the league's second-best center.
Nightly Number: With reserve guard Roddy Beaubois slicing and dicing up the Grizzlies defense, the Mavericks — without any post game to speak of — actually out-scored the Grizzlies in the paint in the first half, 34-28. The Grizzlies weren't going to be able to win that way, and tightened up their defense in the second, denying penetration and outscoring the Mavericks in the paint 34-18 after the break.
The Match-Up: Rudy Gay outscored Shawn Marion 18-7, but the match-up was a lot closer than that. Marion is still one of the league's best defenders at small forward and he did a good job on Gay. With easy baskets hard to come by, Gay ended up forcing some shots and generally took too many difficult or low-percentage shots on the night en route to a 8-19 shooting percentage. Despite having a rough night in a lot of ways, though, Gay bested his season averages with 7 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 block. And he did gather himself for the clincher, driving into the top of the lane and pulling up for a mid-range jumper that gave the Grizzlies an 88-79 lead with under two minutes to play.
Announced Attendance: 17,023
Deflections: Don't look for Zach Randolph to play this weekend. He'll need to go through a full-contact practice before he suits up in a game, and that won't happen before the team flies out for Toronto Thursday, Lionel Hollins confirmed after the game. Next week at Golden State, after a three-day break, remains a possibility.
The Grizzlies got simultaneous strong, energetic performances off the bench from Dante Cunningham (10 points on 5-6 shooting) and Quincy Pondexter (8 points and 8 rebounds), both of whom topped 20 minutes.
Josh Selby returned from his D League assignment and got the back-up point guard nod in the first half. Selby affirmed his ability to getting into the late, absorb contact, and finish, but was also skittish at times. The Grizzlies were outscored 12-7 when he was on the floor. In the second half, not wanting to fool around in a close game, Hollins gave O.J. Mayo the backup point minutes, and the Grizzlies were steadier, playing the Mavericks even with Mayo on the ball.