Practice Report: Tyson Chandler

Mavs C Tyson Chandler chats about the status of his knee after yesterday's scare in New Orleans, Tuesday's tilt against Memphis and much more.

It’s been a week and a day since the Mavs and Grizzlies have played each other, which in NBA years is both a lifetime and a blink of an eye.

One week ago today, the Mavericks were reveling in their best victory of the season, a hard-fought, well-earned win in Memphis, the type of signature win that can propel a lengthy span of awesome play. Dallas was just half a game out of second place in the Western Conference after the following game, a blowout victory in Minnesota last Wednesday.

Since then, though the Mavericks have dropped two straight heartbreakers. It’s crazy how things can change so quickly in this league. The win in Memphis seems like it happened ages ago, doesn’t it?

Regardless of what’s happened since that game, a win tonight would rekindle the same type of infectious optimism that was present after Dallas claimed a 103-95 victory on the Grizzlies’ own floor. Nothing is better than winning, and a win tonight would not only end the Mavs’ brief two-game losing streak, but also bring the team to within 1.5 games of second place in the West. Currently Dallas sits sixth place in the West, but just 2.5 games separate teams 2-6. It’s a wild seeding race this season, and therefore every win counts. This one would be huge, there’s no doubt about it.

OFFENSE
Mavs Offense Grizzlies Defense
Points/100 poss. 110.8 (2) 101.5 (15)
eFG% 52.6 (4) 49.6 (13)
TOV% 12.4 (2) 16.0 (T-8)
Off/Def Reb% 24.5 (T-18) 74.5 (16)
FT/FGA .263 (21) .259 (9)

Last week’s dramatic game featured star-studded basketball at its finest. Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, and Tyson Chandler were all massive throughout, and both Rajon Rondo and Chandler Parsons made big plays throughout the contest as well. For Memphis, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Zach Randolph shone for the entire game. The sport is at its best when the best players play the way they did last Monday.

Although fans might love to see juggernauts go at each other, neither head coach wants the other’s stars to play at that same level again tonight. This game could be a battle of adjustments. For starters, the Mavs once again shot 40 percent from deep against the Grizzlies, the second time in as many games that the club has done so. Dirk was 2-of-4 and Ellis and Parsons hit three each. The Grizzlies defense must do a better job running the Mavs off the free throw line, but therein lies their next problem.

Dallas also attacked the basket relentlessly in that game. Despite scoring just 26 points in the paint, the Mavericks attempted 33 free throws, fourth-most all season, and sank 25 for just the fifth time. The Grizzlies sank 20 themselves, and the teams combined to commit 45 fouls in what became a very physical, chippy game down the stretch. It’s likely that the officials will call a tight game early to prevent it from becoming a slugfest in the fourth quarter. If that’s the case, Dallas will again get a ton of free throw chances if the perimeter players are able to attack the basket after being run off the line. If that’s how this thing plays out, it’s up to the Mavs to make their free throws.

We’ve seen the Mavs play through Nowitzki more often down the stretch in recent games, and that was certainly the case against Memphis. Dirk scored the team’s final eight points and attempted five shots and four free throws in the fourth quarter alone last Monday. He was a huge reason the team won. Dallas also worked the two-man game with Dirk and Monta against New Orleans on Sunday, and it generated plenty of looks at the rim for Ellis — and plenty, too, for Nowitzki behind the three-point line, although unfortunately his shots wouldn’t fall. If those two can replicate the success they had in Memphis, the Mavs are in good shape if the game is close down the stretch, which I suspect it will be.

DEFENSE
Mavs Defense Grizzlies Offense
Points/100 poss. 103.4 (14) 105.1 (10)
eFG% 50.2 (T-18) 49.8 (15)
TOV% 16.7 (4) 13.6 (6)
Off/Def Reb% 71.8 (28) 24.5 (T-18)
FT/FGA .274 (13) .286 (13)

The Grizzlies were simply in the lane too often against the Mavs last Monday, scoring 58 points in the paint, well above the amount Dallas typically allows. Gasol and Randolph led the way, combining for 38 points on 14-of-26 shooting. They dominated the interior for stretches of the game until the Mavs defense buckled down for good down the stretch, forcing the pair of beastly bigs into tough, contested shots. Tyson Chandler did a terrific job protecting the rim toward the end of the game, but Memphis was still able to create simply too many close looks, and no player can hold it down alone, no matter how stout defensively he is.

However, the Grizzlies never led by more than two points in the game, and much of that had to do with the Mavs’ three-point defense, which limited Memphis to just 3-of-22 from behind the arc. The Grizzlies aren’t an elite team from deep by any standards, but that performance was uncharacteristically poor. Memphis shooters missed open looks which easily affected the outcome of the contest. The Mavs must close out better on players like Mike Conley and Courtney Lee, two of the Grizzlies who are truly dangerous from deep but combined to shoot just 3-of-14 on treys for the night.

Rebounding also played a massive role in the outcome of the game. The two teams tied with 42 rebounds each, and the Dallas D limited Memphis to just nine offensive rebounds. Second chances had much to do with the Bulls’ victory in the AAC last weekend, but when Dallas is able to turn opponents misses into fast-break chances, the Mavs are nearly impossible to stop going the other way, especially against a team with two burly, relatively slow bigs who frequently play very close to the rim offensively and therefore can’t get back to defend in transition. The Mavericks must again focus on getting a body on a body and attacking the ball in the air. Memphis was caught a few times chasing the ball too aggressively in the air last Monday, and it led to several loose-ball fouls. Good things tend happen in this league when you box out with authority.

Rebounding, three-pointers, and closing offense aside, we’re likely due for another gritty, dramatic, heart-stopping game tonight. These teams don’t really know how to play any other way. The Grizzlies play to keep games close while the Mavericks are always looking for an explosive stretch of offense that can bust a game wide-open. Usually, whichever team can impose its will on the game has the better chance to win, but in a rivalry as complex as this one, it’s never quite that easy.

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