Can the streak last one more night? We’ll find out this evening as the Grizzlies host the Dallas Mavericks at Fed Ex Forum.
The Mavericks have struggled through this season, and it’s looking more and more likely that their impressive streak of consecutive playoff appearances will finally come to and this year. The Mavs suffered right out of the gate when they lost Dirk Nowitzki right before the season began. They initially looked like they would remain competitive without Dirk, but once Christmas came around, the Mavs hit the skids, and they’ve been on the outside looking in the West ever since.
Dirk has rejoined the lineup, and with each passing game, he’s looked a bit more like his old self. Right now, though, his numbers are still far below his normal averages, as he has just 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. It is worth noting, however, that Nowitzki is averaging fewer minutes than usual, and he wasn’t his old self right away. These days, Dirk looks to be mostly recovered from his injury, and while he’s a bit shy of what he was in his prime, he’s still one of the more dangerous players in the league.
While Dirk was recuperating, O.J. Mayo did the majority of the scoring. After washing out with the Grizz, Mayo has thrived this year, becoming one of the better shooting guards in the league. Still, he will have his hands full tonight against his former teammate Tony Allen, who will likely be assigned to Mayo for the majority of the game. Mayo and Allen are someone antithetical to each other, as one is known primarily for scoring points, while the other earns his living primarily through his excellent defense.
The battle between Z-Bo and Dirk should be a thrill to watch. Z-Bo has continued to be a double-double machine, and now that he’s the team’s first option, he’s looked as ferocious as ever. Between the two, Randolph is the better defender, but Dirk has gotten his excellent shot back, and if he’s on his game, even the best defenses tend to be unable to prevent him from being dominant.
At center Marc Gasol will likely dominate Bernard James, Brandan Wright, and whoever else has the unhappy deed of going against the best defensive center in the game, while mike Conley should make short work of Darren Collison, who has been shooting dreadfully lately. Collison is alluring due to his explosiveness, but ever since his excellent rookie campaign with the Hornets, he’s essentially regressed year after year.
A key factor to the Grizzlies success is whether or not Tayshaun Prince will be able to keep Shawn Marion in check tonight. Marion has continued to play extremely well long after he was supposed to be past his prime, and is averaging 11.4 points and 8.0 boards per game. he’s not producing at the volume he once did, but the structural integrity of his game has remained the same.
Still, if the Grizzlies dominating frontcourt can’t keep Dirk from hitting that fantastic shot of his, while Tony does his job against his former poker rival, the Grizzlies have a very good shot of coming away with a victory tonight.
Oh, and come on Coach Hollins, give Ed Davis some minutes! Please? Pretty please with sugar on top? Come on, I’ll be your friend….