Mavs, Griz fight for right to play… OKC?

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Rick Carlisle talks about the Mavs’ season-ending game vs. the Grizzlies

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies might as well just come out and say it: Give us the MVP.

The vibe emanating from both camps as they prepare for tonight’s Grindhouse showdown that will decide the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds in the Western Conference is that both teams would just as soon stay away from the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs and take their chances against probable league MVP Kevin Durant and the somewhat shaky-looking Thunder (or still possibly the hard-charging Los Angeles Clippers).

Records before and after the All-Star break

                                    OKC              SA           Memphis       Dallas

Before                       43-12            39-15           30-23              32-23

After                           15-11              24-4             19-9                 17-9

With multiple story lines swirling, the Mavs and Grizzlies, both 49-32, will make this regular-season finale count (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). The loser settles for the No. 8 seed and a first-round playoff series against the Spurs. The winner takes the No. 7 seed and will head to either Oklahoma City or L.A., depending which team takes the No. 2 seed after tonight’s games.

Dallas won the first three meetings against Memphis. The first two came before Christmas when Memphis was a defensive mess. The third, at Memphis in early February, the Grizzlies played without point guard Mike Conley.

Memphis is trying to secure a second consecutive 50-win season. Dallas has been talking up 50 wins as a team goal for weeks, trying to get back to the mark it hit for 11 consecutive seasons, but not since the championship year of 2010-11 (they were 36-31 during the 2011-12 lockout season, falling below the .610 winning percentage of 50 wins, and 41-41 last season to snap a 12-year playoff streak).

After struggling early in the season at home, the Grizzlies are riding a season-best 13-game win there. The Mavs have won their last six road games, their longest such streak this season.

As for the preferred playoff matchup, neither the Spurs nor the Thunder will be a walk in the park. San Antonio ranks fifth in the league in offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) and fourth in defensive efficiency. OKC ranks seventh in offensive efficiency and fifth in defensive efficiency. Only the Thunder have looked out of sync since the All-Star break, struggling at times defensively and with cohesiveness because of missing pieces due to injuries.

The Mavs and Grizzlies both stumbled to 0-4 against the Spurs. Worse, Dallas has lost nine straight to San Antonio and Memphis has dropped 14 of 16.

Dallas’ four losses came by an average margin of 11.5 points; Memphis by 11.3. At least the Grizzlies can claim they were without big man Marc Gasol for essentially two of those games. Gasol injured his knee in the 102-86 loss on Nov. 22, playing just nine minutes. The injury that kept him out of the 110-108 overtime loss on Jan. 7, a game defensive bulldog Tony Allen also missed. However, fully loaded on April 6, Memphis got trounced in San Antonio, 112-92.

For offensive-minded Dallas, San Antonio simply presents an awful matchup. The Spurs’ excellent close-out defense limits the Mavs’ 3-point attempts while their precision offense dissects Dallas’ porous defense. In the four meetings, the Spurs have attempted 31 more 3s and outscored the Mavs from beyond the arc by 54 points. In their final meeting on April 10, Tony Parker didn’t play and Patty Mills did the honors, lighting up Dallas for six 3-pointers and 26 points.

Spurs vs. Mavs                      Spurs vs. Grizzlies

Dec. 26: W 116-107                  Oct. 30: W 101-94

 Jan. 8: W 112-90                     Nov. 22: W 102-86

 March 2: W 112-106               Jan. 7: W 110-108 (OT)

April 10: W 109-100                 April 16: W 112-92

If San Antonio has a rooting interest in tonight’s game as they wrap up the regular season at the Lakers, it has to be for the Mavs to pack to their bags for South Texas. Memphis puts up more defensive roadblocks and dishes out far more physical punishment that the Spurs and Tim Duncan, creeping up on his 38th birthday in nine days, would prefer to avoid.

Against Dallas, ranked 22nd in defensive efficiency, the worst among the 16 playoff teams, Duncan averaged 18.5 ppg on 51.1 percent shooting and 12.5 rebounds. Against Memphis, even with Gasol missing time, Duncan averaged 12.0 ppg on 45.0 percent shooting and 8.5 rebounds.

Memphis, which can have a hard time scoring — only the Pacers and Hawks rank lower in offensive efficiency among playoff teams — didn’t fare any better against the Thunder, losing all four games to the team they beat in five games in last year’s conference semifinals. Of course, OKC played that series without Russell Westbrook, as they did twice against Memphis this season. But Memphis can make similar claims with Gasol. As with any regular-season series, who’s in and out of the lineup can alter relevance.

Dallas gained a measure of confidence against OKC over the last month, beating it twice, routing the Thunder at their place on March 16 and outlasting them in a wild OT game at home nine days later. In the two games, Dallas made 28 3-pointers, four more than it managed in four games against San Antonio. Of course, the Thunder was missing Westbrook, defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha and starting center Kendrick Perkins in the first Dallas win and Sefolosha and Perkins in the second.

Thunder vs. Mavs                      Thunder vs. Grizzlies

Nov. 6: W 107-93                            Dec. 11: W 116-100

March 16: L 109-86                        Jan. 14: W 90-87

March 25: L 128-119 (OT)              Feb. 3: W 86-77

–                                              Feb. 28: W 113-107

Finally, after tonight, the playoff pairings will be set and all these numbers can be tossed out the window.

15 Comments

  1. Rahim says:

    Spurs over Mavs in 5
    Thunder over Grizz in 6
    Clipps over Warrs in 6
    Rockets over Tblaze in 7

    -Rnd 2

    Rockets over Spurs in 7
    Thunder CLips ????

    — Con Fin.–
    CLips/Thund over Rockets in 6

    ……..”So shall it be written, so shall it be done.”

  2. Bob M says:

    The Grizz are built for playoff basketball. The Thunder may win the battle, but they will take a beating. Or, when they get beat on they will fold……. like they did in the last Pacer game or for the Heat in the championship

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      They WERE built for playoff basketball. Injuries plague the Grizzlies. They’re not the same team they were a year ago. Not even close.

  3. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    While on this playoff topic, I’d rather face Memphis in the 1st round than the Mavericks. I’m glad Memphis got the 7th seed to face OKC in the 1st round. EASY series win for the Thunder. Thunder are 3 wins and 1 loss against Memphis this season. Westbrook is 100%. Perkins and Sefolosha are back and ready to rock.

    This should be a series sweep, Thunder wins 4 – 0.

    Dallas is actually scarier this season. It is possible they could upset the Spurs in the 1st round. Their starting lineup (Dalembert, Nowitzki, Marion, Ellis, and Calderon) is quite formidable. Dallas can’t beat OKC in a series, anyway, but I think it would be a tougher series than going against the inferior Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis lacks offensive firepower; Thunder are going to storm right past them easily. Dallas’ offense actually has a lot of firepower, compared to Memphis.

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Memphis had their chance to reach the Finals last season, and they blew it.

      Now, the Thunder goes on a World Championship dynasty.

    • Zac says:

      i think Dallas should switch Calderon to the bench, have Harris play against Tony Parker. Also Switch Dalambert for Blair, he knows the other team and players quite well.

      • Joshua Greenfarb says:

        Nice idea. Harris has a lot of experience playing against Parker.

        When Dirk and/or Monta Ellis catch fire, that is what scares me, at least way more than Memphis. Memphis is like no-contest. Perkins cancels out injury-prone Gasol and Ibaka cancels out Randolph and Westbrook dominates Conley. Prince may be injured (at least he was injured recently).

        I think the Spurs have their work cut out for them. If they think this series will be “easy,” they’re going to get upset very quickly. The Spurs may not have defenders to guard Dirk and Ellis. That should be scaring the Spurs. I mean, I’m still trying to figure out how they have the NBA’s best record. Amazing. They literally don’t have anyone that can guard Dirk and Ellis! I predict Dallas will UPSET the Spurs! The Spurs should have re-signed Shannon Brown for defense. Oh well.

      • J says:

        Greenfarb – Are you serious?

        On Harris replacing Calderon. I understand your point (Harris is a much better defender), but the Mavs aren’t going to switch the way they’ve been playing all season.

        DIrk and Ellis can definitely catch fire, but who else can do anything? Carter is okay, but he’s not who he once was. Calderon can hit 3s, but isn’t aggressive enough to go for 30 points.

        Spurs are 4-0 against the Mavs and have won 9 straight against them. The average margin of victory is over 10 points. I think that the Grizzlies are a much tougher team than you give them credit for. They have a better record post-AllStar break than the Thunder do. The Spurs have Splitter/Diaw to guard Dirk. They even stick Duncan on him every so often. Ellis will be guarded by Danny Green, a premier perimeter defender. Kawhi Leonard is another option. If you watched any Spurs games (which according to your comment of ‘I’m still trying to figure out how they have the NBA’s best record’, you haven’t), then you would know that the sport is played by a team, not just 2 guys. Dirk and Ellis alone can’t beat the Spurs. Just like your duo of Durant/Westbrook haven’t won anything yet.

      • Rahim says:

        the calderon switch makes sense, it would also give the second unit a good shooter/pg. However, Blair is overrated as a defensive player, sure he is familiar with his former team, but Duncan and Splitter would prove too much for him, let alone the rebound battle because we know and need Dirk to be the top 10 offensive scorer that he is.

  4. xyz says:

    I disagree too, of course for other reasons than a heat fan.

    With one statement that is the Spurs (nor OKC) don’t look forward to play either one of those neither Dallas nor Memphis. They would trade their spot any second, weren’t it for having homecourt against the Heat (gotta give you that) to play Houston, Portland or even the Clippers for that matter. Who ever comes out of these two series will tear the upcoming opponent to pieces. Hear me.

  5. thespectator says:

    dont matter who plays okc, …both teams would get worked on by OKC…

  6. Another Heat Fan says:

    I disagree with this.
    I could probably make an argument for the Thunder being better than the Spurs. But that’s not the argument I’ll make.
    Teams that grind harder come up winning at the playoffs. Youth, height, and strength matter. Half-court defense matters.

    If I’m memphis, I would rather play the spurs than the thunder. It’s about the matchups. Durant and Westbrook will not be stopped in the first round. Unless one of them is injured. OKC will make it through for sure.

    The spurs on the other hand have been known to have lapses in the playoffs mostly due to their age. They dropped some games against golden state last year. They lost to the grizzlies in the first round the year before. Their consistency in the season has not translated into playoff consistency. They are probably the only team that doesn’t get better in the playoffs. They won’t be easy to beat, BUT if you play with energy and a little bit of luck, you have a shot at beating them.

    I’m not sure about dallas, but if I’m memphis I definitely prefer playing the spurs.

    • Moe says:

      I don’t think Memphis wants to play Spurs. We have own The Grit and Grind ever since.

    • Grandola says:

      The spurs swept Memphis last year and swept them this regular season…. I think the spurs would rather play Dallas cause Memphis would beat the spurs up…. However, the spurs would still sweep Memphis, they might just come out a little bruised.

      Dallas is top 3 offense, but 23rd? In defense…. Easier match up for spurs….

    • Boris says:

      Wat? Spurs are inconsistent on playoffs? The Spurs that made playoffs 17 times in a row, won it all 4 times, were 5s shy of a 5th title last year and only lost twice in the first round on that same span? You sure you’re talking about the San Antonio Spurs?

      Not that it matters anymore, but Memphis would be swept just like Dallas will, theres just too big of a difference between San Antonio and those two clubs.