Maybe it’s too soon to call the Mavericks road warriors, but they are proving that they can handle just about anything thrown at them in hostile territory.
They had a sensational third quarter, then rolled to a 112-85 victory over Memphis at FedEx Forum, snapping the 11-game winning streak that the Grizzlies had built since Christmas.
It’s the ninth time in franchise history that the Mavericks have halted a double-figure winning streak. And remember, they were the ones who stopped Chicago’s nine-game run earlier this month.
So, the Mavericks improved to 12-11 on the road this season and have not had a winless trip (longer than one game). They responded from the blowout loss at New York with a thorough showing in the second half against the Grizzlies.
Luka Dončić had a sizzling recovery from a lukewarm first half and finished with his fourth triple-double of the season (second in the past three games). He finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
In franchise history, the Mavericks have had a player record double-figure points, rebounds and assists 80 times. Luka has 40 of them, in just three-plus seasons.
“It’s nice to hear that obviously, but this is different basketball,” Dončić said. Then, he quickly added: “My threes are terrible so I got to work on that.”
But Dončić was no different than anybody else on this night. He knew the second-half defense was what made one of the best victories of the season possible.
“Our defense in the second half, the first half was a little sloppy, but we came out of the locker room and we did our job tonight,” he said. “They have a great offense.”
The win pushed the Mavericks to 23-19 and sent them home for a five-game stay at American Airlines Center starting Saturday against Orlando.
The hope is that Kristaps Porzingis will be ready to return from COVID-19 health and safety protocols against the Magic. But there are no guarantees. Also, coach Jason Kidd should be getting close to clearing the protocols.
The Mavericks continued to get diverse help. Against the Grizzlies, it came in the form of 16 points from Tim Hardaway Jr. off the bench and 10 points and nine rebounds from Reggie Bullock, who was a plus-31 in his 21 minutes on the court.
The Mavericks turned this game with their third-quarter defense. A Maxi Kleber block in the interior helped stifle the Grizzlies and ignite the Mavericks’ energy. The Grizzlies had feasted early on second chance points, but saw them dry up after they had nine of them in the first quarter.
“It felt like there was a ton of energy from everybody that played in the game, especially in the rebounding,” said acting head coach Sean Sweeney. “It goes back to coach Kidd, the way he coaches, the way he teaches. The biggest thing to me that has been pretty emblematic is the daily improvement that coach Kidd has stressed and the way the guys have bought into that. The hard play and the team play – 30 assists tonight. They did a really, really good job in terms of great effort on the defensive end.”
The Mavericks also did a solid job against high-scoring guard Ja Morant, who had 15 points at halftime, but finished with just 19.
“We know how talented he is,” Sweeney said. “We just tried to do as good a job as we could to make him work. You can’t stop him. You just try to limit him.”
The Grizzlies started the third quarter 5-of-14 from the field (1-of-7 from 3-point distance) and more importantly, the Mavericks were outrebounding them 10-6 in the period as they scooted to a 71-66 lead.
By the end of the third quarter, the Mavericks were up 84-73 after Memphis was limited to 36.4 percent shooting in the period and the Mavericks outrebounded the Grizz 14-8.
Might have been their best quarter of the season, all things considered. And the Grizzlies never truly threatened in the final 12 minutes.
In the second half, the Grizzlies scored just 30 points.
Which was surprising, given that they have been fantastic since Christmas. During their winning streak, they had road victories at Phoenix, Brooklyn and in Los Angeles against the Lakers and Clippers.
Their rebounding has been a big key. They’ve averaged 10 more rebounds per game than their opponents during the streak. And they are the best offensive rebounding team in the league.
But the Mavericks won the battle of the boards 52-41.