After an unexpected week of hiatus following the catastrophic Texas weather event, the Dallas Mavericks led the Memphis Grizzlies, 102-92. Tim Hardaway was the tallest man in Dallas, scoring 29 off the bench. Ja Morant led the Grizzlies in loss with 22 points.
Both teams seemed asleep to start the first quarter, with Josh Richardson the only player on either team to play with any speed. He made three deep 3-pointers on frame, starting a Dallas offense that seemed out of place after a week off. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, simply couldn’t score until their bench unit entered the game. Tim Hardaway Jr. provided the necessary spark from the bench, hitting two 3s and a pitch from the bench. Luka Doncic was out the entire quarter, missing all but one of his shots, including all four free throws. Those issues aside, the Mavericks still lead 26-13 after one playing period.
One might expect Memphis to find some kind of rhythm in the second quarter after Tyus Jones and a flurry of floaters gave the Grizzlies a late first quarter offense. That would be an incorrect assumption. Jalen Brunson led the Mavericks, scoring in various ways on the frame, and Tim Hardaway Jr. kept throwing flames as the Mavericks extended their lead to 23 in the second quarter. Luka Doncic continued to look like a slow pace, but for the first time in recent memory, it didn’t matter. The Mavericks, at one point, held a 20-0 fast break advantage over Memphis, helping them take a 54-36 lead at the half.
Luka Doncic took control early in the third, reaching the rim and hitting a soft float. The Grizzlies just didn’t respond and appeared to be running in the sand for much of the frame. Outside of some exciting Ja Morant finishes, Memphis had very little to offer. That allowed Dallas to feast on transition and no turnovers. The Mavericks actually cooled down considerably from distance in the fourth, but Memphis couldn’t take the lead at all. After three quarters, Dallas led 81-62.
The Mavericks just held on for the rest of the game. The final frame appeared to be a workshop for Luka Doncic to find his shot when he finally hit a pair of three in the opening minutes. The Mavericks slackened a bit in the final six minutes of the quarter, allowing their 18-20 point lead to drop to 15, then 12. Dallas managed to maintain a double-digit victory, but did not end the game in enthusiastic fashion. All things considered, though, a win is a win and the Mavericks walked away with a 102-92 win.
Now some thoughts
Defense leads to offense
This is one of the oldest rules in basketball and the Dallas Mavericks rediscovered their active hands from earlier in the season for the game against the Grizzlies. Dallas punished the Grizzlies on both fast-break points (24-2) and turnover points (19-12). Although the Mavericks are ranked 12th in the league in fast break points, they are second to last in turnover points.
Dallas was still pretty poor at the rim, but without Kristaps Porzingis, the closest player on the list to a shot blocker is Willie Cauley-Stein. Dallas also did a better job on the boards, laying bodies on the Memphis players and not getting destroyed on the offensive glass despite Grizzly’s poor shooting performance.
Josh Richardson, pioneer of rhythm
Richardson finished with 17 points and seven rebounds to accompany three assists and a pair of steals. But his great first quarter, where he scored 10 points and five rebounds, really got Dallas into a room where they felt a bit stuck in the mud.
Josh noted on Twitter earlier today that Richardson is having a pretty enjoyable offensive season, once you look past his 3-pointers (which is also an upward trend!).
If Josh Richardson could shoot just the league average (or even slightly worse) from three, he would be having a very good offensive season thus far. pic.twitter.com/nBp9JH2IJB
– Josh Bowe (@ Boweman55) February 22, 2021
It’s good to see Richardson become a differentiator for this Dallas team. For now, we’ll ignore his team’s five turnovers.
This is by no means a new trend, but it was good to see Maverick’s bench continue to score with ease. Jalen Brunson has been arguably Dallas’ second best player this season and easily the second most consistent. He answered the bell again Monday night, scoring 19 points on a hyper-efficient 7-of-11 from the floor to accompany seven rebounds and three assists. Then Tim Hardaway Jr. continued to be the true x-factor, scoring 29 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including a fiery 7-of-11 from center. Dallas, I think it’s 6-1 now when Hardaway scores 20 points or more. 48 points from two players off the bench make any team tough to beat.