Before Wednesday’s game against Memphis, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle raved about how impressive the Grizzlies have been this season.
A few short hours later, the Grizzlies showed the American Airlines Center sellout crowd of 20,069 exactly what Carlisle was referring to.
In a game where forward Kristaps Porzingis suffered a broken nose, the Grizzlies used an explosive 24-3 run in the third quarter to blow open the game and emerge with a 121-107 victory over the Mavs.
The loss snapped the Mavs’ modest two-game winning streak as they slipped to 31-20 heading into Friday’s road game against the Washington Wizards. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies won for the 13th time in their last 16 games and increased their record to 26-25.
“They’re very, very good,” Carlisle said of the Grizzlies. “They’ve beaten a lot of good teams at home and on the road. They’ve got a lot of high-powered players.”
Memphis showed off its potent offense in the third quarter when it took control of the game by outscoring the Mavs, 41-22, to take a 100-78 lead into the fourth quarter.
The game was tied at 71-71 after Tim Hardaway Jr. converted a pair of free throws. But Tyus Jones came off the bench to lead a fierce charge by the Grizzlies, who went on a 24-3 run to assume a 95-74 lead with 1:02 to go in the third quarter.
“Ugly game for us,” Carlisle said. “They played extremely well, so give them a lot of credit for how they played.
“We hung in in the first half, but we were not playing particularly well. We had some decent shot-making, but they carried the action most of the night and we’re going to have to do a lot better.”
That third-quarter run by Memphis was costly to Porzingis, who was hit by an errant Josh Jackson elbow under the basket and came out of the game with a bloody nose and with the Mavs down, 81-71.
“It is broken, but it’s OK,” Porzingis said. “I told the doc I didn’t have any headache right then, so they let me back in.
“Tomorrow (Thursday) morning I’ve got to see the nose doctor, and then we’ll go from there.”
With blood gushing from his nose, Porzingis left the game with 4:06 remaining in the third quarter, but returned before the fourth quarter started.
“I don’t know exactly what happened,” Carlisle said. “I know it was bloodied. He came back in, he could have stayed in — I took him out.”
Porzingis finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds while joining Luka Doncic, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo as the only players with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in three consecutive games this season. The fourth-year big man had 24 of his points in the first half, which concluded with Memphis ahead, 59-56.
But while the Mavs’ offense fizzled in the second half, the Grizzlies were in one of those zones where everything was working for them.
“I mean our energy wasn’t great today and they kind of started the second half a little better than us,” Porzingis said. “I got hit in the nose, walked out, came back and we were down (95-74) pretty big, and that was it.
“We were trying to fight our way back in there, but something wasn’t clicking. The ball wasn’t moving as well as we wanted to, and our overall energy wasn’t the best. It’s something that we have to keep in mind when we’re on the road.”
Before the Mavs take on the Wizards, they may want to just flush Wednesday’s game out of their system. Dallas shot just 36.2 percent from the field, while the Grizzlies converted 52.8 percent, including 48 percent on 3-pointers.
“We played poorly and we just got to be better,” Carlisle said. “When our offense sputters and the ball movement isn’t where it needs to be, we tend to struggle defensively, as do most NBA teams.
“Look, Memphis had a lot to do with our struggles, so a lot of the credit needs to go to them. They’ve fast-tracked their rebuild and they’re right in the thick of the playoff hunt.”
Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill were healthy and at the arena, but did not play for the Grizzlies because their names were connected to a possible trade.
That opened the door for Grizzlies’ guard Ja Morant to shine. The rookie from Murray State was out with an injury when the Mavs beat the Grizzlies 138-122, on Nov. 9, but scored 15 of his 21 points in the first half.
Morant entered Wednesday’s game two days removed from being named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for January.
“I haven’t seen this kind of athleticism at point guard since (Russell) Westbrook,” Carlisle said of Morant. “He’s just got an exhilarating vibe when he steps on the basketball court.
“He’s fast, he’s a leaper, and defensively he’s improving all the time. He’s got a real good feel for keeping his teammates involved, and they’re doing a great job of keeping him fresh by spacing his minutes.”
A nifty reverse layup by Morant was the finishing touch on a 32-14 by the Grizzles and pushed them ahead, 50-39, with 5:47 remaining before halftime.
“He’s a guy that probably was very close to making the All-Star team, because of his impact on their team,” Carlisle said.
Besides Porzingis, Jalen Brunson finished with 20 points and six assists, Hardaway had 14 points and six rebounds, and Maxi Kleber added 10 points and six boards.
In addition to playing their fourth straight game without point guard Luka Doncic (sprained right ankle), the Mavs also played without injured guards Seth Curry (left knee tightness) and J. J. Barea (sprained left ankle). Obviously, they could have used some extra manpower against the Grizzlies.