Grizzlies-Mavericks Preview

For a team trying to secure home-court advantage in the first
round of the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks are struggling at
American Airlines Center.

The Mavericks will try to avoid being swept in a three-game
homestand as they host the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday – the
second meeting between the teams in a week.

With the Lakers owning a comfortable lead atop the Western
Conference, Dallas (50-27) is battling with Denver, Utah and
Phoenix for one of the three remaining top seeds in the conference,
which earn home-court advantage in the first round of the
playoffs.

The Mavericks, though, might prefer to start on the road given
their recent struggles in Dallas. After winning 13 in a row overall
from Feb. 17-March 10, they have since gone 5-6 and lost their last
two. Dallas, which after Wednesday plays three of its remaining
four games on the road, has suffered four of those defeats at
home.

The last time it lost three in a row in Dallas was a four-game
slide to start last season.

The Mavericks can look to their defensive struggles as a big
reason for their recent slump. On Saturday, they lost 121-116 to
Oklahoma City, allowing the Thunder to shoot 51.9 percent and lead
by as many as 19 points. Over their last 11 games, they have
yielded 104.6 points per game while during the winning streak,
opponents were averaging 97.1 points.

“When we won 13 in a row, the defense was much better,” center
Brendan Haywood said. “We have to improve our intensity on
defense.”

They’ll face another test against the Grizzlies (39-38), who are
averaging 105.3 points in their last eight games. Although Dallas
has won two of three against Memphis, the victories came by a
combined nine points and one went to overtime. It has won eight
straight at home over the Grizzlies, however, including a 106-101
victory in December.

Memphis has averaged 100.3 points in the season series with the
Mavericks, but shot 40.9 percent in a 106-102 overtime loss at home
March 31. Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 30 points in Saturday’s loss,
finished with 28 in that win despite shooting 9 of 23.

Nowitzki is averaging 29.0 points the last four games.

While the Grizzlies are proving tough to slow down, they are
also giving up 106.3 points in their last eight games and have lost
five of six. They fell 113-103 to Houston on Tuesday.

Memphis came as close as 103-101 with 2:26 left, but the
Grizzlies couldn’t overcome 16 turnovers that led to 24 points by
Houston.

“It seems like this game was a lot closer than a lot of our
other games,” forward Darrell Arthur said. “We couldn’t make a play
at the end.”

Zach Randolph scored 22 points. He is averaging 22.0 points and
11.4 rebounds over his last nine games.

Randolph is looking to help the Grizzlies finish with their
first winning season since 2005-06. They need to win three of their
final five games, but four are against playoff teams – all on the
road.

Memphis hasn’t won in Dallas since a 112-92 victory Nov. 26,
2005.