It’s hard enough trying to stitch together a sophisticated game plan to try and slow down some of the best athletes in the world. It’s even more maddening trying to do it without much practice time.Sean

Thanks to the ramifications of COVID-19, that’s what the Dallas Mavericks and the other 29 NBA teams are up against. But surprise, surprise, surprise. Something happened to the Mavs on Friday morning that hasn’t happened in. . .

“We had a shootaround (Friday) morning,” acting head coach Sean Sweeney said. “But it’s been our first one in a while.

“But I think just in general you’ve got to understand how much time you have or don’t have, (and) try to be clear and concise in your message.”

Memphis Grizzlies acting head coach Darko Rajakovic lamented the tough situation the NBA coaches and players are currently in.

“More or less, all the teams are in the same situation,” Rajakovic said before the Mavs drilled the Grizzlies, 112-85, Friday night in Memphis. “We’re losing players to Covid, to injuries for different reasons, getting players on 10-day deals. There’s a lot going on right now. All the time we’re acting like everything is normal and we’re living normal lives, and you see a room full of people with face masks.

Luka“We’re in the middle of a pandemic!. That definitely influences everything that we’re doing on the basketball court as well. Our preparation, our practices, everything is done to try to keep our guys safe and to have available bodies to play games.”

“Make your sophistication your simplicity,” he said. “So that way guys understand what they’re trying to do, and then can do it as hard and as well as they can.

“And then be ready to go each and every night with who your opponent is and how to apply what your system is – things that coach (Jason) Kidd preaches – to that given opponent.”

With COVID-19 limited the amount of in-person time players and coaches are having, there’s a lot of improvising going on.

“Our guys do a really good job of preparing for the games on their own watching a lot of film, watching a lot of film with their individual coaches, so that helps a lot in preparation for every game,” Rajakovic said. “But every time we have an opportunity we cannot forget, if you’re a young team, every time that we have a real opportunity that we like to get on floor and to talk about different situations and what we can do offensively and defensively and just to allow this thing to continue growing.”

PORZINGIS STILL OUT: Mavs acting head coach Sean Sweeney said he talked to forward Kristaps Porzingis, who has missed the past seven games – the last six due to the health and safety protocols.

“When I talked to him he’s been doing pretty good and hopeful to be back pretty soon,” Sweeney said. “So, positive regular communication.”

Porzingis has yet to play in a game in 2022. The last time he played – Dec. 31 in Sacramento – he finished with 24 points, nine rebounds,KP six assists and two blocks as the Mavs beat up the Kings, 112-96.

“Porzingis is a heckuva player,” Memphis Grizzlies acting head coach Darko Rajakovic said. “He brings so much to that team. Definitely, they miss him.

“But at the same time they’ve found some groove lately. They just won six games in a row before losing in New York (to the Knicks on Wednesday). It looks like they’re playing fine there, they’re playing together and they’re competing at a high level.”

Sweeney isn’t sure when Porzingis will be ready to play again. He also isn’t sure what he’s been able to do on the basketball court.

“I think whatever he’s allowed to do he’s trying to do,” Sweeney said. “I’m not really sure what the rules are.”

DEFENSE RULES THE DAY: Both the Mavs and Grizzlies have come a long way this season in terms of defense.

When the two teams met back on Dec. 8, the Mavs were 20th in the NBA in defensive rating and the Grizzlies were last. A little over a month later, and the Grizzlies are first in the league in defensive rating and the Mavs are fifth.

LukaSo, how did the defensive rating improve so quick in the middle of a season?

“I can’t speak for them and their coaches and what they’re doing every day,” Mavs acting head coach Sean Sweeney said. “But for us it’s been trying to concentrate on daily improvement, understanding the things that matter the most defensively, understanding what our strengths are and how we want to play, and then applying that to whatever the opponent may be.

“Trying to do the things that matter most, concentrate on the 80 percent each and every day, and then apply the 20 percent to whoever we may be playing that night.”

Grizzlies acting head coach Darko Rajakovic is very impressed with the defensive intensity the Mavs bring to the court and the way they clog up the passing lanes.

“They do a really good job of taking away threes, they do a really good job of playing one-on-one,” he said. “They’ve got big active bodies, and I give them a little credit for the culture they’ve developed with the new coaching staff. You can see the results of that.”

The Mavs’ defense was on full display Friday as they held the Grizzlies to just 30 points in the second half, including only 12 in the fourth quarter. The results: The Mavs won, 112-85, and snapped the Grizzlies’ 11-game winning streak as Memphis lost for the first time since suffering a 113-104 loss at the Golden State Warriors back on Dec. 23.

Meanwhile, the 85 points are the fewest the Grizzlies have scored this season.

BRIEFLY: Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has moved past Luka Doncic and into second place in the latest round of the fanluka voting for next month’s All-Star game in the players voted to the Western Conference starting backcourt. Morant has 1,633,313 votes to 1,410,605 for Doncic. Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors is the West backcourt leader with 4,463,426 votes. “His efficiency this year has been pretty impressive,” Mavs acting head coach Sean Sweeney said of Morant. “Offensively, with his ability to attack the paint, that’s something that was strong before. But (he’s) finding different ways to get in there (in the paint), building on his game and some of his strengths in the past. Defensively, I think he’s done a pretty good job for them in the role that he’s been asked to play. But just his all-around game and his efficiency has been pretty impressive here thus far.” In his assessment of Morant, Doncic said: “I think he’s deserving of the attention he’s getting. He’s very talented.” By the way, Doncic picked up 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists during Friday’s 112-85 win over the Grizzlies. It was the 40th triple-double of his three-and-a-half year career. Amazingly, all of the other players who have played for the Mavs since they became an NBA franchise in 1980 have combined for just 40 triple-doubles. Doncic said: “I think it’s nice to hear that, obviously, but I think it’s different basketball.”. .The Mavs are now 17-10 in the games  Doncic has played  in this season and only 6-9 in the games he’s missed.

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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