Memphis Grizzlies top Dallas Mavericks as Dirk Nowitzki leaves early with back tightness
By AP FeedFoxSports
The Memphis Grizzlies wanted to make sure they maintained the momentum they had before the All-Star break.
They did it by turning back the defending champion Mavericks on Wednesday night — albeit with Dallas getting little production from Dirk Nowitzki, who left with a balky back.
Marc Gasol had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Mike Conley added 20 points and 10 assists as the Grizzlies won 96-85 in their first game after the All-Star break.
''We all told each before the break that when we came back, it was a sprint to the finish line,'' Conley said. ''Each game is going to be big, especially starting off against the defending champions. I thought we showed we were hungry and wanted to get off to a good start.''
Rudy Gay added 18 points for Memphis, despite hitting just eight of his 19 shots. Dante Cunningham was 5 of 6 from the field and scored 10 points as the Grizzlies won their fifth straight home game and their eighth in the last 10 overall.
Jason Terry led the Mavericks with 18 points, while Rodrigue Beaubois scored 16. Brendan Haywood had 10 points for Dallas, which lost its third straight.
The Mavericks played most of the game without Nowitzki, who averages 19.7 points a game. Nowitzki scored only one point before leaving early in the second quarter with lower back tightness. He did not return.
''He felt something in warmups and tried to play,'' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. ''He clearly wasn't moving the way he needed to be moving, so we pulled the plug.''
The Mavericks also were without Lamar Odom, who missed his third game for personal reasons, and Delonte West, who is out with a fractured right ring finger.
''I thought we had some good stretches,'' Carlisle said. ''Our second quarter was great. The start of the third was OK. Then, in the third, we had some opportunities to score, but couldn't cash in. Then they made a run.''
Memphis led by as many as 15 in the second half and maintained a nine to 11-point lead most of the way down the stretch.
Beaubois gave the Mavericks good minutes off the bench in the first half scoring 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting from the field. He was part of the Mavericks hitting 13 of their 20 shots in the second quarter, taking a 49-47 lead into halftime.
Memphis built the lead to as many as 10 early in the second period, but Dallas outscored the Grizzlies 32-22 in the quarter.
''It was slippage,'' Memphis guard Tony Allen said of the second quarter. ''Coach (Lionel Hollins) came to the sideline, threw that clipboard down, and I think guys looked at that as a time to respond.''
Both teams shot well in the half, Dallas connecting on 54 percent of its shots, the Grizzlies hitting at a 50 percent clip. But the Mavericks were hampered by 10 turnovers.
Gasol led Memphis with 12 points in the half.
The Mavericks extended the lead with four points from Haywood to open the second half, but Conley sparked Memphis to retake the lead. The Grizzlies relied on their defense to compose an 18-2 run in the period.
''When you've got five guys out there focused on the defensive end, great things happen,'' Allen said. ''We got deflections, steals, we kind of won the 50-50 balls.''
The defensive stance and the rally weren't enough to hold Dallas completely at bay, however, as the Mavericks picked their way back. Still, Memphis led 74-67 entering the final quarter.
''The third quarter definitely put them in a great position to win the game,'' Haywood said. ''They had a good run. In the second half of the third quarter, we were really on a tough drought where we couldn't really get good shots or just get a good offensive feel.''
Memphis opened the fourth with four straight baskets, including a pair by Gasol, to reach its biggest lead at 82-67.
''I think our tempo was better in the second half,'' Conley said. ''Defensively, we did a great job on them, running them off the three-point line, getting out in transition, playing our style of defense. Getting steals and getting out and getting easy buckets.
''When we play in a comfortable zone like that, we're hard to beat.''
NOTES: The Mavericks were playing the second game in a run of nine in 12 nights. ... Grizzlies PG Josh Selby, recalled from Reno after the All-Star break, was used as a backup to Conley at point guard, displacing Jeremy Pargo. ... The Mavericks' 17 points in the first quarter matched Dallas' season low for the opening period. ... Memphis PF Quincy Pondexter had a career-high eight rebounds.