Will Dirk Nowitzki's return to the Mavs court be a Christmas gift? A New Year's resolution? It is…
First Impressions: Grizzles 92, Mavs 82
In the end, the Memphis Grizzlies were able to lay their hat, hang their hat, throw their hat jubilantly in the air ... whatever they wished, handling the visiting Dallas Mavericks on Friday, 92-82.
Oh, there were pockets of competitiveness from Dallas, which dropped to 12-15 and 4-11 on the road. The Mavs mounted a 12-2 run before halftime. They actually tied the game early in the third. And two try-hard guys, Shawn Marion and DoJo, never gave up the cause.
Trix survived while wrasslin' with Zach Randolph (17 points, 13 rebounds) and contributed 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
Dominique Jones vaulted from third-string (or lower) point guard to Mavs Player of the Game candidate for his 13-point, seven-assist night. Both those numbers represent career highs achieved because Derek Fisher (knee) didn't make the trip and because Darren Collison left due to an illness -- an illness that coach Rick Carlisle seemed to scratch his head over in the postgame media briefing. (Stomach bug, or somesuch.)
"I tried to push through it, but I was just too weak," Collison said. "I'm hoping to be OK (for Sunday at San Antonio)."
Overall, though, Carlisle searched for positives.
He talked of Dallas "fight'' despite being "undermanned.''
It's true. But that pace issue established itself early, taking advantage of the "undermanned'' part and rendering the "fight'' ineffective. The Mavs have in these back-to-back games (Friday at home in a loss to Miami and this one) shot just 15-of-54 in the first quarters, scoring a total of 36 points. That won't get it done against true contenders, and it doesn't help when those true contenders have defensive aces like Dwyane Wade (Miami) and Tony Allen (Memphis). Those two are directly responsible for the 28-hour weekend silence of O.J. Mayo, who scored just 10 points against his former Memphis team and for the two-game run shot 6-of-25.
"I thought O.J. did a good job of letting the game come to him," Carlisle said. "He forced a couple shots, but he made some very nice passes and did some good things defensively. The first game back to your old place is always challenging from an emotional standpoint."
In back-to-back games against Miami and Memphis, Mayo totaled 18 points and shot 6-of-25 from the field. It's no coincidence that the Heat and Grizzlies are two of the best defensive teams in the league.
"The similarity is that these are both teams that are in that small handful of really legitimate contenders," Carlisle said.
The Mavs' issued were worsened by a season-long bugaboo -- turnovers. Dallas committed 24 of them and is now closing in on a dubious franchise record: The Mavs have had 20-plus turnovers in six games already this year. Way back in 1997-98, Dallas experienced eight games with 20-plus turnovers.
That edition of the club finished 20-62.
The Mavs are now three games below .500 for the first time this season. They are waiting for help from the rehabbing Dirk Nowitzki , they are getting too little help from other bigs (Elton Brand didn't play due to a groin problem, Bernard James received an odd DNP-CD and Chris Kaman fumbled the ball as often as he caught it, resulting in him receiving no fourth-quarter minutes for the sixth time in eight games).
And there are more issues on the horizon, issues with more good teams that dictate the pace of the game. Dallas is 2-10 against winning teams and the next two meetings are roadies, at San Antonio and at OKC.
If and until the Mavs fix what ails 'em, it looks like more teams are about to do some hat-hanging.