For the third game of the Memphis Grizzlies 2013-2014 season, the Grizzlies were beaten by the new-look Dallas Mavericks. Your Grizzlies were led by Mike Conley, who had 24 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds. Marc Gasol had 23 points and 5 rebounds, and Z-Bo had 21 and 14. Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 24 points on 7-16 shooting, and Shawn Marion had 21 points and 14 rebounds in Dallas’ winning effort.
To start the game, the Grizzlies did not look good. At all. They ended the first quarter down 16-32, and the Mavs were shooting a decent 44% from the floor, a blistering 66.7% from 3, and were leading the Grizzlies in offensive rebounds 6-2, and in total rebounds 15-10. The Grizzlies were shooting 35.3% from the floor and 25% from 3. The huge hole that the Grizzlies dug themselves in to begin the game would ultimately decide their fate: they would often outscore Dallas going forward, but they could never make up that initial deficit.
The second quarter was much better, as the Grizzlies made up most of the 16 point deficit to end the half only down 6, 49-43.
The story of the first half was really the Grizzlies’ execution of both some semblance of an offense, and in a major way, in executing their defense.
It was strange, in particular, to see how the Grizzlies were defending Mavs screens in the first half. Very much not in the Grizzlies tradition, Marc Gasol and Koufos were blitzing the ball handler on the pick and roll, very much like Indiana or Miami, instead of falling back and covering the paint as they usually do.
Gasol is at his best when he’s roaming the paint to cut off all angles of entry to the basket on rolls, and when he was preoccupied with the ball handler, he was not so free to roam the paint the way he’s used to. As a result, the Mavs killed the Grizz on backdoor cuts, pocket passes, and give and goes. Shawn Marion’s 6 offensive rebounds in the half is indicative of the extent to which the Grizzlies were missing tertiary action, defensively.
On offense, the Grizzlies were having a hard time of exploiting their opportunities. The zone defense that the Mavericks were running involves lots of strong side help, and that typically results in at least one three point shooter being left open, but the Grizzlies are famously poor at exploiting that kind of space.
The second quarter was much better, as, mostly, the Grizzlies’ strategy of blitzing pick and rolls starting paying off and forcing turnovers, resulting in a large advantage in fast break points for the quarter.
The third quarter was largely the same story as the second, but replace “turnovers” with “rebounds.” Samuel Dalembert got far less burn in the third, and Marion got tired, resulting in more easy rebounds and a big second chance point advantage for the Grizzlies in the third. They also did a better job scoring, putting up 20 in the quarter, but continued to have trouble defending the fast-moving, deceptive Mavs, and they ended the quarter down 63-73.
It’s honestly hard to come up with a good narrative for the fourth quarter. The Mavs continued to score. The Grizzlies scored a bit also, but not enough to make up a deficit. There were a lot of fouls, and most of the quarter was back at forth (both teams were tied in points in the quarter by 3 minutes left in the 4th). The Grizzlies’ defense continued to look bizarre, and it continued to struggle against the quick-moving Mavs. The result of the game reflected that.
Notes and Takeaways
- Marc Gasol did not look like his defensive self from last year. Probably the most amazing aspect of his game was his impeccable ability to manipulate angles to shut off passing lanes and block off the paint. This game, he could only do one or the other, and I often caught myself saying “how did Marc give him that lane?”
- It’s pretty telling that the Grizzlies’ offense was so bad that it made Dallas’ defense look good. I can’t count the number of instances I was thinking “wow, Calderon is really having a hard time getting over that screen…and Conley is still where he was before, so it doesn’t matter.” Or screaming “THERE’S ON ONE ON THE STRONG SIDE ANYMORE JUST FLOAT TO THE CORNER FOR GOD’S SAKE.” It was god awful.
- The defensive pick and roll coverage was just so strange. I don’t know what to say about it other than that. It was really abnormal. I don’t know if this is a plan going forward, or if this is an aberration, but it was very strange. Dallas has a particularly good offense to take advantage of Memphis (who, exactly, is ever supposed to guard Dirk? The defense looked very bad when Dirk was in, but probably for good reason), but this kind of coverage just won’t hold up against strong offensive teams. I imagine that they pull themselves together at some point, but this was just so bizarre.
- Mike Conley looked really good, but he was clearly struggling in Memphis’ offense when there wasn’t much quick movement one way or another. He could explode this year if people will just move a little faster and give him space to operate.
- Kosta Koufos is the best. Just the best. He’s always in the right place at the right time. I don’t know how he does it. It’s like he’s magic, or doctor who. He might have the best court placement in the NBA. Just…just…god he’s so good. I might have a crush on him.
- Mike Miller’s hair is luxurious. Even Mavs bloggers were commenting on the elegant curls. Definitely led the game in “fabulous.”