To say it’s been a tough start for Dallas would put it mildly. Their season tipped off with a pair of hard-fought defeats to fellow strugglers the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings, before the Mavericks’ deficiencies were thrust into the limelight through heavy reverses to the Rockets and Warriors, the latter of which came in the form of a 30-point drubbing. Dennis Smith Jr.’s return from a knee issue against the Warriors did little to stop the bleeding, while the struggles of veteran Dirk Nowitzki, who is averaging a meager 8.3 points per game on 30.2% shooting, will also be of concern.
Things don’t get any easier for Rick Carlisle’s 0-4 side as they host the hottest team in the West, the Memphis Grizzlies (3-0), on Wednesday night. Pundits had the gritty Grizzlies declining in 2017/18 on account of the influx of talent to their Western Conference rivals. But David Fizdale’s men, as they often do, have proven the naysayers wrong. After easing past the Pelicans to start their campaign, Memphis recorded a pair of impressive defeats over Western Conference favorites Golden State and Houston, the latter of which came after they produced a 28-14 final quarter to down the Rockets 98-90. Nevermind acquiring superstar talent, the Grizzlies have proved that stifling defense and clutch play is a recipe for success.
Three Keys to the Game
Stopping Marc Gasol – If the Mavs are to make a contest of this, they need to do what the Pelicans, Warriors and Rockets couldn’t: stop Marc Gasol. The Spaniard has been in beast mode this season, averaging 24.7 points and ten rebounds a game, to go with a handy 2.3 blocks.
Dallas’ scoring options – Dallas have been spreading the points with six players averaging double-digit tallies, Harrison Barnes leading the way with 16.3 per game. But the lack of a high-scoring outlet has proven costly, with Smith Jr., such a key component of the Mavericks’ offense, managing just 13 per game across his two outings. Someone needs to step up and post a big total for the Mavs here.
Grizzlies sharing the load – To go with Gasol’s fine displays, Mike Conley has put up 18 points and 4.7 assists per game, Jarell Martin has stepped in as effective cover for the injured JaMychal Green while there have also been noteworthy contributions from the bench. Throw in Fizdale’s coaching nous, and it’s easy to see why the Grizzlies are such an effective unit. If they continue sharing the load, Memphis will run riot against the Mavs.
Matchup to Watch
Marc Gasol vs. Nerlens Noel – Nerlens Noel’s limited playing time this season has been baffling, particularly given he has posted the best numbers, including a team-high 7.3 rebounds per game, of all the Mavericks’ centers. Surely Carlisle offers Noel more than the 18.5 minutes per game he’s been averaging in a bid to try to neutralize the red-hot Gasol.
Grizzlies Projected Starting Lineup
PG – Mike Conley | SG – Andrew Harrison | SF – James Ennis III | PF – Jarell Martin | C – Marc Gasol
Mavericks Projected Starting Lineup
PG – Dennis Smith Jr. | SG – Wes Matthews | SF – Harrison Barnes | PF – Dirk Nowitzki | C – Nerlens Noel
Gasol’s form, coupled with Dallas’ perplexing approach to the center position, points to another strong outing for the Spaniard.
Memphis managed to hold Houston’s high-octane offense to just 90 points last time out, and will likely suffocate the Mavericks into submission. That makes the under 195 points total a good betting play.
Memphis stroll to a 101-88 victory, becoming this season’s first 4-0 side.
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