Grizzlies 106, Mavs 105: Analysis Donuts

'That was playoff intensity,' Dirk said after the Mavs' regular-season-closing 106-105 OT loss at Memphis. 'It was a fun game to be a part of. It went back-and-forth. It was a fun game all the way down the stretch.' Ah, but soon the real 'playoff fun' begins. Before it does, however, we analyze an epic and meaningful game in Mavs Donuts:



DONUT 1: The table is set ...

There was a lot on the line when the Dallas Mavericks warmed up in Memphis to face the Grizzlies for the 82nd game of the season. There was the lingering stink of Lamar Odom, in the form of the fate of a top-20 protected pick the Mavs included in the deal for Odom that could be sent to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Playoff seedings in the Western Conference were still in flux … as well as the dreaded matchup with the San Antonio Spurs waiting for the eventual eighth seed.

Memphis leapt to an early lead, up 10 late in the first, but in a game where the scoreboard often felt in contrast to the play on the court, the Mavs refused to fall away or yield. Minutes would crawl by with the Grizzlies seemingly well in control of the game. Then, a glance to the score would show the Mavs within two or holding a small lead, such as a two-point advantage at the half. A game that often seemed to be getting away from the Mavs simply … wasn't.

Monta Ellis, quiet for much of the night, drained a 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining off of Devin Harris's 10th assist to tie the game at 93. DeJuan Blair would harass Zach Randolph (27 points, 14 rebounds) on the Grizzlies final possession, and the game went to overtime … the Mavs fifth overtime in the final 14 contests.

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Mike Conley got himself to the line in the OT with 1.1 seconds left on a foul call that, as you see in the above picture ... a difficult call in terms of determining who fouls whom where, as Conley sort of simply jumped into a pile of Mavs.

"Mike Conley just runs in there and didn't have anything,'' Dirk Nowitzki said. "It puts him on the line for two. That was another tough call."

The play left Dallas with a last gasp. An inbounds play was designed, then re-designed ... and then a third post-huddle design. Ellis would stay hot in the overtime, but would miss his final attempt, an open look from 20 with just under 1.1 seconds left as the Mavs fell 106-105.

"It felt good, but it didn't go down," Ellis said before shifting into big-picture gear. "I think we did a great job. We competed. It went down to the wire, and they won."

Dallas was 1-5 in games that went to overtime in the 2013-14 regular season.

DONUT 2: The official NBA highlight reel …



"That was playoff intensity,'' Dirk Nowitzki said. "It was a fun game to be a part of. It went back-and-forth. It was a fun game all the way down the stretch.''

DONUT 3: The Bad News …

With the loss, the Mavs slotted into the eighth seed and a matchup with the team that posted the best record in the NBA, including a 4-0 regular sweep of the Mavs: the San Antonio Spurs.

The series will start Sunday at noon in San Antonio.

"Our guys played with a lot of courage and a lot of guts," coach Rick Carlisle said. "They hung in there. There were some calls that I thought were pretty clearly missed. But we played through that. And we gave ourselves a great chance. It ends up coming down to one shot, which probably it should in a game like this that was so hard fought. We've got to regroup and get ready for San Antonio."

The "regrouping'' won't just be needed because of this loss. The "regrouping'' will also have to occur as a result of loss after loss after loss to the Spurs.

None of the choices were "good," but few are blind to the fact that within a range of options that could all be categorized as "bad" there was still space for degrees of bad. The Mavs were going to be underdogs against the Thunder and Clippers just as they will be to the Spurs, but that doesn't mean they weren't possibly "better" options; they were.

Much more so than either of the other options, San Antonio showed the ability to perfectly slide their strengths into the weaknesses of the Mavs … they displayed the ability to dominate this Mavs roster.

The road was always going to be tough … at least on paper, the Mavs will now face the toughest route possible.

DONUT 4: The Good News …

Despite the outcome, there was some good news from the results around the league Wednesday night.

That ghost that's been crop-dusting your basketball dreams the last couple of years has finally been exorcised completely … or at least has a definitive endpoint.
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Thanks to the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors each losing their final game, the Mavs are guaranteed not to have a top-20 pick in the 2014 draft … meaning it will no longer be protected and will be shipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder, finally completing the Lamar Odom deal.

"I'd rather just get it over with," owner Mark Cuban said before the game. "I'm fine just getting it out of the way so it's no longer over our head or an issue."

We describe the reasons why in more detail here, but this should allow the Mavs front office to operate more freely on the trade market.

Within the goal of contending while Dirk Nowitzki is still capable of being an elite player, this could be significantly positive news.

DONUT 5: One of the big plays of the night …

Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis will get their share of the headlines when the late push from the Mavs is described, and deservedly so, but one of the game's biggest plays came from Devin Harris.

With under 30 seconds to play and the Mavs down three in regulation, after a pair of Ellis attempts fell harmlessly away, the first blocked by Marc Gasol (19 points, 9 rebounds), Gasol came away with a defensive rebound and kicked the ball out to Mike Conley Jr. (22 points, 5 assists) … only Harris had hustled into position and cut off Conley's path, causing an unavoidable collision and an offensive foul against Conley.

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A hustle-based play that allowed the Mavs one more shot to tie the game with a three, which they would when Ellis attacked, kicked out to Harris in the right corner, who let the defender fly by then jabbed inside to draw the defense and kicked back to Ellis, who made the three with 13 seconds to play.

Without the charge call the Mavs are forced to intentionally foul, as the Grizzlies could have drained the rest of the clock without a shot attempt … and the game is likely over.

It was a huge play that didn't directly involve the ball passing through the net, and could have been the single biggest moment of the game had the Mavs been able to hold on in overtime.

Harris finished with his first double-double of the season: 10 points, 10 assists, three rebounds, two steals and four turnovers … and that huge charge drawn.

DONUT 6: This is how to disappear …

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In large part, it was due to foul trouble that began in the first moments of the game. In another, in a game where the Mavs desperately needed his size, Samuel Dalembert never looked to be truly engaged.

Perhaps it's unfair to judge so harshly when fouls played a direct role in Dalembert getting under 12 minutes in a game his team needed him to show up big … but it's hard not to come away disappointed when a starting center ends the game with more fouls (5) than rebounds (3) and as many turnovers as points (2).

Dalembert finished with two points, 1-of-2 field goals, three rebounds, two turnovers and five fouls in 11:28.

The Mavs needed more … much more.

DONUT 7: The Big Two …

Dirk Nowitzki: 30 points, 12-of-22 field goals, 3-of-9 3-pointers, five rebounds, four blocks and two turnovers … just under 46 minutes.

Monta Ellis: 18 points, 8-of-21 field goals, 2-of-4 3-pointers, four assists, six rebounds, two steals and two turnovers … just under 42 minutes.

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Dirk gave Mavs fans everywhere a scare, showing some pain in his right knee after Tayshaun Prince rolled into him late in the second quarter. Nowitzki was limping noticeably, but did not leave the court, and took the court in the second half with a black sleeve over the right knee. As the minutes climbed and Dirk appeared to show no further limitations from the knee, that fear went away … though it's never a good thing to see Dirk limping and turn to the knee sleeve.

"It's just a bruise," Nowitzki said. "We've got plenty of time until Sunday, obviously. I'll take it easy (Thursday) and get ready to play Sunday."

Ellis began the game cold, and seemed deterred from his standard aggression into the paint by the interior size of the Grizzlies backline. Through three quarters he had only four points on 2-of-8 shooting, but as so often been the case recently, he found his footing late … going 6-of-13 for 14 points in the fourth and overtime combined, including numerous clutch attempts that kept hope alive.

"The way he'd been shooting," Carlisle said, "I just really thought (the final try) was going to go in. ... The slimmest of margins is what everything rests on. It was an 18-foot wide-open shot that, if it goes in, everything changes. That's the way it's going to be in the playoffs, too."

In the fourth quarter, Dirk started off hot and Ellis closed it out as the pair scored 16 of the Mavs 20 fourth-quarter points, hitting 6-of-13 shots … the rest of the team was 2-of-8.

Overtime was a similar story, with Ellis carrying the bulk of the scoring load, scoring seven of the Mavs 12 points. Dirk added three. Meaning Dirk and Ellis scored 10 of the Mavs 12 points, with Shawn Marion adding the other two.

DONUT 8: Quotable

"Tonight is a good indication of the fight we have in us, and we're going to take that fight to San Antonio.'' -- Coach Rick Carlisle.

DONUT 9: Mavsellaneous …

*The most offensive rebounds the Memphis Grizzlies have grabbed in a game this season was 22 against the Mavs back on Dec. 18th. Their second most was 20, which happened twice. One of those instances came Wednesday night in game 82, against Dallas.

*Devin Harris had his first double-double since he was a member of the Utah Jazz, back on March 25, 2012.

Before Wednesday's double-double Harris had actually had as many double-doubles against the Mavs as he had as a member of the Mavs: two.
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*Devin was involved in another pivotal play when, with 52.4 seconds left in regulation, he was whistled for being out of bounds following a steal. Carlisle asked for a replay, as it appeared Harris may have safely walked the sideline tightrope.

Why, Rick, were you not granted your request?

"I don't want to go into that,'' he said. "If I want to spend 50 grand I'll give to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital or I'll give it to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, or some organization or cause that's really worth giving 50 grand to.

"Otherwise, I'm going to abstain.''

*How close did Dallas come to its 50-win goal? Close. Lots of times. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Mavs' 22 games decided by three or fewer points led the NBA this year ... and Dallas was just 11-11 in those games.

Close.

DONUT 10: The toughest road …

The Mavs will not practice today. A chance to sleep in, lick wounds, and start thinking of a way to finally beat San Antonio.

We mention above "loss after loss after loss.'' The Spurs have taken nine straight from Dallas, and 13 of the last 15 regular-season matchups.

Of those 13 Mavs losses, the final score was only within five once.

Here's the schedule for the first-round playoff series between the Mavs and Spurs:

*G1 - Sunday Dallas at SA noon TNT
*G2 - Wednesday April 23 Dallas at SA 7pm NBA TV
*G3 - Saturday April 26 SA at Dallas 3:30pm TNT
*G4 - Monday April 28 SA at Dallas 8:30pm TNT
*G5 (if) Wednesday April 30 Dallas at SA TBD
*G6 (if) Friday May 2 SA at Dallas TBD
*G7 (if) Sunday May 4 Dallas at SA TBD

DONUT 11: Doom and gloom? ...

A lot of "doom and gloom" can be gleaned from the notes above, such is the path facing an eighth seed forced to face a one. Regardless of Wednesday's outcome, their road was always going to spin away beneath the rolling storm clouds to be lost in the darkness of doubt.

There was no outcome that could deliver the Mavs to the realm of the favorites. But, this is the playoffs. The Dallas Mavericks are in.
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This is a land where a hot streak can defy the expected, can crush the doubters, can deny the truths odds would have us accept as fate before fate has been written.

It was never going to be easy … but neither was getting through that door. The Mavs are through and they can see and hear the storm raging ahead, feel the weight of just what it is they'll have to overcome.

But here … in the playoffs … anything can happen.

DONUT 12: The Final Word …

"I think eventually we will win one,'' Dirk said of the upcoming Mavs-Spurs duel. "Why would it not be Game 1 or Game 2?

"We are going to go out there and let it rip in Game 1.''


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