It’s one thing to beat up the Cleveland Cavaliers. Wednesday night the Mavs need to stand up to the Memphis Grizzlies.
For their manhood. For their momentum. And, mostly, for their place in the NBA’s Western Conference standings.
Tonight’s game in Memphis will be more than a ho-hum February appetizer to All-Star Weekend. The Mavs are currently 28-21 and clinging to the 8th spot. Approaching fast in their mirror: The 26-21 Grizzlies.
“It’s a big game,” Dirk Nowitzki told reporters after Tuesday’s practice at American Airlines Center. “You don’t really want to say in February it’s a playoff game, but it definitely will be that kind of intensity.”
The Mavs have gotten on a roll by beating the slums of the league. Detroit. Sacramento. Cleveland (twice). In those game scoring 100+ points was a walk in the park. In fact, they put up 124 Monday night against the Cavs. The schedule remains appealing with looming games against the lowly Jazz, Celtics and Bobcats.
But tonight will be anything but easy.
With All-Star center Marc Gasol back from a knee injury, the Grizzlies are playing tough, terrific basketball. They turn track meets into mosh pits, with a clutching, grabbing, physical defense that frustrates teams into half-court games and scores in the 80s.
The Mavs will get a lift from the return of Shawn Marion, but they’ll also need another strong performance from skittish center Samuel Dalembert. The Grizzlies desperately need to win to catch Dallas in the standings, and they’ll attempt to do so by bludgeoning the Mavs in the paint with Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Memphis is hot, and hungry. The Mavs are 17-6 against winning teams, but only 11-15 against teams with winning records.
Yes, it’s early February. But tonight’s game will have ramifications into April.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at DFWSportatorium.com and lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.