Jockeying for playoff position, Grizzlies welcome Mavs to town
Winners of two straight and five of their last six, the Memphis Grizzlies will host the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night looking to secure sole possession of second place in the Western Conference standings.
Memphis (43-27) is currently tied with the Sacramento Kings for second place in the West, as both teams sit four games behind conference-leading Denver.
Both teams have been rolling, and the Grizzlies have been able to attribute a good deal of their success to Jaren Jackson Jr.
Jackson was outstanding on Saturday, scoring 31 points, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking four shots in Memphis' 133-119 victory over the Golden State Warriors.
It was the third consecutive game where Jackson scored at least 25 points, which has been huge considering Memphis has been playing without star point guard Ja Morant for the past eight games due to a suspension stemming from poor off-court behavior.
Morant is eligible to play against the Mavericks (36-35) but has been ruled out for the contest due to conditioning.
Without Morant spearheading the offense, the Grizzlies' defense had to step up against the Warriors, which it did, limiting Golden State to 7-of-21 shooting from the floor and just one made 3-pointer in the fourth quarter as Memphis outscored the Warriors 29-19.
Moving forward, Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins hopes his team can continue shutting teams down at the back end of games.
"It's really on the defensive side when we're executing our game plan," Jenkins said. "That's the biggest thing. Holding teams to 19 points in the fourth quarter is really huge for us."
Desmond Bane has been a steady offensive weapon for the Grizzlies with Morant sidelined. He has scored at least 21 points in five of his last six games while also averaging 5.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists during that span.
In back-to-back meetings with Dallas on March 11 and 13, Bane scored 25 and 23 points, respectively.
Tyus Jones has also picked up the slack while starting in place of Morant. He had a triple-double in a 126-120 overtime win over San Antonio on Friday and followed that performance up with a double-double (13 points, 14 assists) against Golden State.
Dallas star Luka Doncic (thigh) has missed the past four games and was ruled out against Memphis. But the Mavericks enter the matchup with the Grizzlies riding a two-game winning streak thanks to Maxi Kleber, who drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer on Friday to lift Dallas to a 111-110 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kleber finished with 10 points in the victory.
"I never had a shot like that before," said Kleber, who scored six points in the final seven seconds of the game.
Kyrie Irving returned from a foot injury and scored a team-high 38 points for the Mavericks. He also added six rebounds and six assists. However, the Mavericks listed him as questionable on the Monday afternoon injury report.
Also marked as questionable was Tim Hardaway Jr. (non-COVID illness), who had 12 points in the win. Any absences could mean Christian Wood (17.2 points per game) and Josh Green (9.5 ppg) might also shoulder more of the offensive load.
Memphis has a 2-1 edge in the season series with the Mavericks.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 20, 2023