The Dallas Mavericks are the lone remaining winless team in the Western Conference and have the misfortune of going up against one of the few teams that remains undefeated when they host the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday in the first of a back-to-back, home-and-home set. The Mavericks are being outscored by an average of 14.3 points and were crushed 133-103 at home by the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Monday.
Dallas, which travels to Memphis on Thursday for the start of a stretch with six of nine on the road, allowed 40 points in the first quarter and 68 in the second half on Monday. “We got hit early, and then it always takes us a little bit to engage in the fight,” Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki told reporters. “It’s a little too late in every half. They hit us early, and then in the second half we couldn’t really recover any more.” The Grizzlies showed off their defensive might by holding the explosive Houston Rockets to 14 fourth-quarter points in a 98-90 win on Monday and entered play Tuesday second in the NBA in opponent’s field-goal percentage at 39.6. “We competed better on the ball, and more into the ball,” Memphis center Marc Gasol explained to reporters. “We were a little more proactive defensively, and that way everybody can see from behind what might happen on the ball. We were a little more physical too and that helped a lot.”
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, FS Southeast (Memphis), FS Southwest (Dallas)
ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES (3-0): Memphis already knocked off two of the top three teams in the West from last season (Golden State and Houston) and prides itself on doing the little things to win games. “We’re a team that’s built like we say all the time, we’re a team that grinds,” point guard Mike Conley told reporters. “We’re a team that’s going to try to win all 50-50 balls and out muscle you and out hustle you and try to give ourselves the best chance to win.” It helps that the Grizzlies are also a team that has Gasol in the middle, and the star center is averaging 24.7 points, 10 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.
ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (0-4): Dallas is counting on rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. to shoulder a big load this season, and he struggled on Monday in his return from a two-game absence due to a knee injury. The 19-year-old went 3-of-11 from the field and was limited to one assist in 30 minutes while going up against two-time MVP Stephen Curry. “Well, there’s a lot of learning that’s going to happen in a very short period of time,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlise told reporters of Smith. “And this is as challenging a situation a rookie point guard is going to be put in two games into his career. ... I thought he did a lot of good things. Stats aren’t great, but he created a lot of problems at a lot of key points in the game when we were in the game. He’s just going to keep learning, and we’re going to support him.”
1. Memphis SF James Ennis III is 12-of-16 from the floor while averaging 10.7 points.
2. Dallas SG Seth Curry (stress reaction) took shots at practice on Tuesday but is unlikely to make his season debut on Wednesday.
3. The Southwest Division rivals split four games last season, with each team grabbing one road win.
PREDICTION: Grizzlies 105, Mavericks 92