Mavericks vs. Grizzlies: Memphis Will Continue Post-Rudy Gay Run
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The Grizzlies have ripped off seven straight victories and will go up against the Mavericks, which found themselves all but out of the playoff hunt.
Barring a miracle, Dirk Nowitzki and his Mavs will miss the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.
On the other side of the matchup are the 37-18 Grizzlies, a team that has figured out how to cope after losing Gay, its leading scorer, to the Toronto Raptors last month.
It didn't look like this trade would work out for Memphis early on, though. The Grizzlies looked lost in the four games immediately following the trade, going 1-3 and struggling to find consistent scoring.
They've come on since then, however, led by a rejuvenated defense.
The Grizzlies are only letting up 87.0 points per game during their win streak, and have held their last three opponents to an average of 78.7 points.
It will be key for Memphis to keep up the staunch defense against the seventh-highest scoring team in the NBA.
The Mavs have been held under 100 points in just three of their last 19, and Nowitzki is averaging 25 points and 13 rebounds on 55.8 percent shooting over his past three games.
The Grizzlies will certainly try to contain Nowitzki and Mavericks point leader O.J. Mayo, but they will need to put up some points to match the dynamic Mavericks offense as well.
Luckily, the Grizzlies have also found a way to fill in for the loss of Gay's scoring during this streak.
Mike Conley has stepped up since the trade, averaging 15.1 points and seven assists in the last 11 games. Tayshaun Prince, who came over in the trade, also has been a valuable role player off the bench.
Both teams have been consistently playing close games. Memphis' last three have all been decided by fewer than six points and the last two losses to the Bucks and Lakers came by five and four points, respectively.
If this game is going to be close toward the end, the advantage goes to the Grizzlies, as the Mavs have struggled late in tight games this season.
Nowitzki acknowledged the need for stronger fourth quarter play to Brad Townsend of The Dallas News, noting, "If we want to make a push, we have to find a way to win those close games."
Memphis will be a tough team to reverse this trend against.
All but one of their wins during this streak have been by single digits, and their lock-down defense down the stretch has stifled opponents.
Tonight's game will likely be a tight one, but look for Memphis to keep up pressure on Dallas on the defensive end and continue to roll with a win.
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