'We’re a team looking to move up,' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle says. “We’re looking to move up in the standings. We’re not looking to just hang on to the eighth spot. Who wants to be in the eighth spot if you’ve got a chance to move up to seventh, sixth, fifth or fourth?' The Mavs are daring to look ahead ... and we do the same, in Mavs Donuts!
DONUT 1: Mavs 110, Grizzlies 96 ....
The Dallas Mavericks looked at Wednesday's visit to Memphis as a game that would have "playoff-level intensity.''
Dallas delivered at FedExForum with a muscular 110-96 victory that means a three-game win streak, forges a two-game cushion over the Grizzlies for eighth place in the Western Conference standings ... and motivates Mavs coach Rick Carlisle to thirst for more.
DONUT 2: The official highlight reel ....
DONUT 3: 5 little percentage points ...
We went into the game armed with the DallasBasketball.com revelation that when Dallas shoots at least five percentage points better than its opponent, the Mavs are an astounding 13-0.
That wouldn't line up quite right in the end as the Mavs shot 53.8 percent to Memphis' 53.6 percent. Yet that doesn't paint an accurate picture of what happened with this stat over the course of a game that didn't demand Dallas dominate on the defense end -- but rather, survive there via field-goal percentage allowed.
Dallas gave up 60-percent shooting in the first half, catching its only break when officials belatedly waved off an intermission-beating bucket made possible because the Memphis clock-keeper was slow on the trigger.
But Memphis still held a three-point edge and a shooting percentage that looked like it would doom a Dallas team that had lost five straight games at this site -- and had never scored more than 89 points in doing so.
And then came a turnaround fueled by the Mavs allowing Memphis just six made baskets in the third. ... and a FG-percentage margin at a late-game point that fits the thesis just fine.
We've got the details breakdown of how the turnaround occurred in our First Impressions report here.
DONUT 4: Storyline 1 ...
It's premature to believe the win at Memphis cements the start of something big; fans of this team this year have been "fooled-me-once'd'' far too often for that; heck, if you don't think Dallas can completely erase this "biggest win of the season'' by dropping one at home on Friday to lowly Utah, you haven't been paying attention.
So let's not get ahead of ourselves. There is one big storyline here. The Mavs promised they would approach this with "playoff-like intensity,'' did so, and won doing so. The hot Grizzlies had a chance to pull into an eighth-place tie with Dallas in the Western Conference standings but the 29-21 Mavs slapped them down.
That's a standings-booster and a confidence-builder and the Mavs deserve those.
Now, what's next?
DONUT 5: Eyeballing sixth? ...
“We’re a team looking to move up,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’re looking to move up in the standings. We’re not looking to just hang on to the eighth spot. Who wants to be in the eighth spot if you’ve got a chance to move up to seventh, sixth, fifth or fourth?''
The 29-21 Mavs have a right to look ahead in the standings, where only a half-game separates them from Phoenix and Golden State. Those two teams are 29-20. The seventh-place Suns are not necessarily a better team than Dallas.
Golden State in sixth? Hey, that's a goal.
The Rockets in fifth? The Clippers in fourth? Hey, that's ... well, let's see if it's realistic based on where Dallas goes next.
DONUT 6: Feeding on the lambs ...
This much is true: Dallas must feed now on the opportunities the schedules presents, as those “should-be” feasts -- like 16-32 Utah on Friday is projected to be -- are soon to grow few and far between.
Including Monday night’s victory over hapless Cleveland, the Mavs have 12 games in February. If those 12, five are against teams that entered this week seeded in the top eight in either conference, otherwise known as "playoff teams.''
Ah, but two of those five come against teams with lower winning percentages than Dallas: the Charlotte Bobcats (22-28) and Chicago Bulls (24-24) … arguably meaning nine of the 12 games in February could be classified as “should-win,” or very “winnable” at the least.
The three that may fall outside of that definition?
Two of Dallas' February games are against the best the East has to offer: the Indiana Pacers (38-10) and Miami Heat (35-13). The other of the five “playoff” squads is Memphis ... but to the Mavs' credit, they are now 3-0 against the scary Grizzlies.
DONUT 7: In like a lion ....
But then things get rougher … a lot rougher.
In March, the Mavs have 14 games. Eight of those are against playoff teams (entering this week, as defined above). Of those eight, only Brooklyn (21-25) has a worse record than the Mavs, and five come against the league’s best five teams, including the Spurs, Blazers, Pacers and Thunder (twice).
In March, the Mavs will also face 24-23 Denver twice and Minnesota (23-24), leaving only Utah, Boston and the Kings as the supposedly “easy” games … and those three franchises are 2-1 against Dallas to this point.
DONUT 8: And in April ....
Relative to March, April sees some softening, but is far from easy.
Dallas has eight games in the month, five against teams that entered this week as “playoff” teams, all five with better records than the Mavs and one versus a member of the league’s top four -- the hated Spurs.
DONUT 9: Mapped out ...
Once the month-by-month challenges are put before you, you see where there is going to be more "playoff-level intensity'' vs. where there is going to be more "opportunity.''
The former outweighs the latter.
Put simply: While it's probably a wise motivational trick for Rick to boost his team's confidence by talking about scaling the heights of the standings, in reality, the Mavs must take advantage of their February schedule to allow for some cushion come March and April. ... when they play a far less "scale-able'' schedule.
DONUT 10: Quoteboard ....
“This is the kind of win we’ve been trying to get to get some momentum. We’ve just got to keep it going.” -- Rick Carlisle.
DONUT 11: Dia dos Namorados! ....
Our friends at Estilo Gaúcho are original partners in support of the Texas Legends and in celebration of the excellence of their incredible and original restaurant, they've become partners with DallasBasketball.com, too.
This is a family-owned local business offering a memorable dining experience featuring the cultural traditions of Southern Brazil. It's been named not only the premier Brazilian steakhouse in DFW but also one of the finest restaurants in the Dallas area of any kind. For lunch or dinner, David and Alex and their staff of Gaúchos make every occasion a special occasion. ... That includes Valentine's Day ... or "Dia dos Namorados'' as we like to call it!
Please visit Estilo Gaúcho this week and make your Valentine's Day reservation ... and tell 'em The Fish sent you!
DONUT 12: Who Deserves 'The Dirkie'? ....
In Memphis, Dirk scored 26 on 10-of-14 shooting (including 3-of-4 from the arc). Big men Sam Dalembert (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Wright (17 points) matched the challenge of Memphis' great bigs. Monta Ellis had 14 points and Vince Carter had 13 points and seven assists.
Lots of candidates who need lots of your votes on Who Deserves "The Dirkie'' as the Player of the Game in Memphis. It's a game we've played over the course of DB.com's 14 years and we're glad to have you along!
DONUT 13: The Final Word ....
“We’re looking for more,'' Carlisle said. "We’re looking to get better. We had nine new guys this year. We’re 50 games in. We’re at the point now where nobody wants to hear about a bunch of new guys. Fifty games in, you’ve become a team or you haven’t. Tonight shows that we’re in the mode of becoming a real team, but we’ve got to just keep working at it.”