MEMPHIS – Probably no team play grind-it-out basketball in the NBA better than the Memphis Grizzlies. On Monday night at FedEx Forum, the Dallas Mavericks found that out the hard way.
Mike Conley scored 28 points and the Grizzlies finished the game on a 14-4 run en route to tripping up the Mavs, 98-88, before a crowd of 15,997. The loss snapped the Mavs’ season-high four-game winning streak and dropped their record to 7-9.
However, the challenge of upending the Southwest Division-leading Grizzlies could have ended differently had the Mavs played the last five-plus minutes the way they played the first 42-plus minutes.
Rookie Jalen Brunson banked in a six-footer with 5:41 left to tie a game – at 84-84 — where both teams played a game of cat and mouse the majority of the night. But after that, the Mavs went stone cold and just couldn’t locate the basket.
Following Brunson’s bucket, the Mavs scored just four points on 1-of-10 shooting and committed three of their 11 turnovers. And five of those nine misses came from 3-point territory.
“We had struggles in the fourth (quarter on offense), but we had struggles at both ends,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We finally played three tough solid quarters, and in the fourth we just had some breakdowns.”
Did the Mavs fall too in love with the 3-point shot when the game was still in doubt? That’s the question Carlisle was asked, as Dorian Finney-Smith missed a pair of 3-pointers, and Dennis Smith Jr., Luka Doncic and Harrison Barnes each missed one in the final stages of the game.
“When you’re down eight with two minutes to go if you get good open ones you’ve got to take them,” Carlisle said. “There were a couple before that that we may have been a little hasty on.
“But our guys got to stay aggressive and they got to be decisive stepping into shots. And we were hitting a lot of those shots early in the game.”
Garrett Temple and Conley each drilled a 3-pointer to set the Grizzlies’ winning drive in motion. Marc Gasol (17points, 15 rebounds, four blocks) followed with an 18-footer.
And when Kyle Anderson picked Doncic’s pocket in the backcourt and dunked it, that capped a 10-0 run by Memphis and the Grizzlies soared ahead, 94-84, with two minutes remaining in the game.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Doncic, who was only 6-of-20 from the field. “We were in the game the whole time.
“We didn’t play good the last five minutes. We’ve got to learn from that.”
The Mavs shot just 34.1 percent from the field and missed 22 of the 32 shots they attempted from 3-point land.
Doncic registered his first career double-double as he collected 15 points and a career-high 10 rebounds. DeAndre Jordan finished with 17 points and a season-high 20 rebounds, Smith added team highs of 19 points and five assists, Finney-Smith scored 13, and Barnes tallied 10 points and was just 3-of-14 from the field.
The Mavs played without injured starting guard Wesley Matthews, and injured top reserves J. J. Barea and Dwight Powell. Their absence certainly had an impact on the game.
“We’re short on guys today, so it might have been (tired) legs, but we got to do a better job of getting to the paint in the fourth,” Smith said. “We’ve got a lot of really talented guys on this team.
“We had a couple of them missed time today, so their presence was definitely missed, but it’s up to us to step up and play regardless of the situation. I think we fought pretty hard tonight. We didn’t come out on top, but overall we fought hard.”
This certainly was a physical test for the Mavs as they scored their fewest points in a game this season and found themselves involved in their first game this year where neither team scored at least 100 points.
“They were playing pretty good defense and we played pretty good defense as well,” said Brunson, who had eight points in 25 minutes. “It’s just that they made a couple of more shots than we did.
“They’re a good defensive team and we knew that coming in. They just got it together in that fourth quarter.”
One play in particular irked Carlisle. Gasol set what appeared to be a moving screen right near the Mavs’ bench, and Conley drained a 3-pointer that gave Memphis a 90-84 lead.
Carlisle, who called timeout right after that controversial play, was asked about it afterwards.
“If I want to spend 30 grand, I’ll write a check to St Jude (Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis),” Carlisle said. “I’m not going to spend it talking to you (media) guys.”
Dallas opened the game on a 6-0 run, but trailed 25-21 after the first quarter. Memphis (11-5) led 53-49 at intermission and the game was knotted at 74 apiece entering the final quarter.
And it stayed deadlock until the Grizzlies stepped up and pulled away in the final five minutes.
“I should have gone to the paint, so I blame myself for that,” said Doncic, who was 3-of-9 from 3-point range. “Especially me, way too many 3-point shots, way too many shots for me.
“They didn’t score as many points, but we didn’t do good on offense.”
The grind game is something the Mavs — they host Brooklyn on Wednesday — hadn’t seen this season.
“That’s what Memphis is all about,” Smith said. “They’ve been like that for years. We anticipated that coming in – we’ve got to grind.
“Even though we’re short on guys, we got to grind from the first quarter to the end. But like I said, we fought hard. We just came up short. I’m still proud of everybody on the team, though.”
NOTES: Wesley Matthews (strained left hamstring), J. J. Barea (left adductor strain) and Dwight Powell (left knee effusion) did not play Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies. Before the game coach Rick Carlisle said: “These guys are all considered day-to-day, which is good. But at this point and time the smart thing to do is to sit Barea, Powell and Matthews tonight.”. .The Mavs open a two-game home stand starting Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets. The home stand concludes with Saturday’s game against Boston before the Mavs hit the road again starting with a Nov. 28 contest in Houston. . .Jaren Jackson was drafted fourth overall in this past June’s NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. But the power forward from Michigan State was very much on the draft board of the Mavs, who drafted fifth overall. “He was considered to be one of those top four guys,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “They’re varying opinions on who would be the best of the four, who would be the best with this team or that team. But he’s showing right now, particularly the last couple of games, why he’s a high pick, why they’re so high on him here. He’s a unique player.” Phoenix chose Deandre Ayton with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, Marvin Bagley III went second to Sacramento, the Atlanta Hawks selected Luka Doncic third, and after Jackson went to the Grizzlies, the Mavs drafted Trae Young with the fifth pick. The Mavs then traded Young’s draft rights to the Hawks for Doncic’s draft rights. . . Rick Carlisle has high regard for Grizzlies assistant coach Jerry Stackhouse, who played for Carlisle in Detroit and Dallas. “I have great respect for Stack because he was a great player, but he also realized as his career wound down that he wanted to stay in the game and that he wanted to be a head coach, and to do that you had to pay your dues,” Carlisle said. “So he put the work in Toronto, he made the choice to be the head coach of their G-League team, won a championship there and in time he will be an NBA head coach. I don’t have any doubt about that. He has great presence, he has great knowledge, he has a terrific understanding of the game, and he’s tough. He’s one of the toughest players that I’ve ever come across.”