Practice Report: Chandler Parsons

Mavs F Chandler Parsons says this week of games will be a good measuring stick to see where the team stands and that they must bring their "A" game every single night.

Not many teams in basketball are playing better than the Memphis Grizzlies. The 16-4 Grizz are tied for second-best record in the league with two other Western Conference teams. Memphis is 9-1 at home. No matter how you slice it, this is going to be a tough one.

But that’s always been the case when the Mavs and Grizzlies do battle in Memphis. For example, last year’s regular season finale finished 106-105 in overtime as a Monta Ellis jump shot rimmed out at the buzzer. When both Dirk Nowitzki and the Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol are healthy, these teams are nearly inseparable in any respect. That’s what makes tonight’s game so intriguing.

Add to that, of course, Vince Carter coming off the Memphis bench, the inevitable banging of Zach Randolph and Tyson Chandler down low, and the offensive genius of both Ellis and Mike Conley on the perimeter, and you have yourself a ballgame.

OFFENSE
Mavs Offense Grizzlies Defense
Points/100 poss. 114.0 (1) 99.4 (5)
eFG% 53.5 (3) 48.5 (8)
TOV% 11.9 (3) 16.4 (T-7)
Off/Def Reb% 26.5 (T-11) 73.1 (T-23)
FT/FGA .275 (18) .241 (3)

These are two goliaths when the Mavs have the ball. The Memphis defense is as stout as ever, and it starts with Marc Gasol in the middle. The center faces 9.4 field goal attempts per game at the rim, fifth-most in the league, but allows opponents to convert on just 48.7 percent of them. Any mark below 53 is good, but anything less than 50 is elite.

As a team, the Grizzlies hold opponents to 43.9 percent shooting from the field, seventh-best in the league. Where the Mavericks might attack is the three-point line, where opponents shoot considerably better by comparison (34.5 percent). Opposing teams also shoot 41.3 percent between 10-14 feet against the Grizzlies, the 11th-highest percentage in the NBA. The Mavs convert 43.5 percent of their attempts from that range, per NBA.com, good for 10th in the league. If you can get past the Grizzlies’ perimeter defense and pull up for a short jumper before Gasol can contest the jump shot, there are points to be had.

Dirk Nowitzki enjoyed plenty of success against Memphis last season, though Gasol was sidelined for a majority of the season due to injury, and he makes the Memphis defense so much better. Still, Dirk scored 25 points per game on 56.7 percent shooting against the Grizz in 2013-14. If Memphis can’t find an answer for the Big German, Dallas is in business.

The other big battle to watch is Tony Allen guarding Monta Ellis. Allen has long been considered one of the best perimeter defenders in the game. Ellis scored 17.0 points per game in four contests against Memphis last season on just 38.1 percent shooting, but considering the recent tear he’s been on, I would expect a better showing this evening.

DEFENSE
Mavs Defense Grizzlies Offense
Points/100 poss. 104.3 (18) 106.5 (8)
eFG% 51.7 (26) 50.5 (T-11)
TOV% 18.3 (1) 13.9 (7)
Off/Def Reb% 71.1 (29) 25.7 (18)
FT/FGA .279 (14) .301 (12)

The Grizzlies are one of few teams in the league with a top-10 offense and defense in terms of efficiency, which makes them a nightmare to play against. Still, they are certainly beatable, just as any team is.

The five leading scorers are all starters, something that’s fairly uncommon in today’s NBA. Vince Carter was billed as the team’s sixth man who could dynamically impact a game the way he did so many times during his three seasons in Dallas. However, Carter is scoring just 5.3 points per game on 33.3 percent shooting from the field in 15.1 minutes this season. The Mavs second unit is more productive and it must play that way.

The biggest thorn in the Mavs’ side tonight could be Courtney Lee, a shooting guard who scores 12.6 points on fewer than nine shots per game. Lee is a terrific three-point shooter, hitting 52.8 percent of his 3.1 attempts per game this season, by far the best in his career and the third-best mark in the NBA. Reserve Tayshaun Prince is hitting 50 percent from deep himself this year, starting point guard Mike Conley clocks in at 43.5, and backup four Jon Leuer hits 45.5 percent. The Dallas defense can’t afford to give these guys clean looks at the basket.

That’s easier said than done, of course. The Memphis offense is engineered to run through Gasol in the middle of the floor. He receives 13.7 elbow touches per game, most in the league, per SportVU. His 3.7 assists per game is the second-best mark on the team. Conley, the leader, records 6.3 dimes per contest and is also tied for fourth in the NBA with 2.0 secondary (or “hockey”) assists per game. Memphis might still play its grit-and-grind style of basketball (fifth-slowest pace in the league), but it’s an efficient brand that produces lots of points.

The plan, then, for Dallas? Close out shooters and contest jump shots. Memphis hits just 5.4 threes per game, and the Mavs must work hard to keep the number that low. I like Tyson Chandler against Randolph and Gasol on the inside, but if the Grizzlies get hot from deep, the Mavs offense is going to have a heck of a hole to dig itself out of. Dallas is good at defending two-point shots, so if the defense can force the Grizzlies into those jumpers and contested looks inside, the Mavs are in good shape.

That counts double when these two teams play. It seems like the games in Memphis are always close and dramatic, so one single brilliant play or mistake could turn a game one way or the other. Dallas plays a smart brand of basketball and both teams are very patient on the offensive end, so we’re going to see some really good play tonight. The Mavs will simply have to play better to earn a W. It should be a difficult challenge, but one that’s fun to watch for us.

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