The Pick: Mavericks 95-91
I understand that the Grizzlies played last night and that the Mavericks have been off since their victory on Saturday, but this recommendation is built on principal. Any team who has the ability to lock down and play top notch defense (which the Grizzlies can do even without Marc Gasol) simply should not be a double digit dog, regardless of the circumstances. Ten points in this game is much greater than ten points in your average NBA game. The over/under is set at 193 points, indicating that the odds makers in Vegas are projecting a roughly a 101-91 game in favor of the home team. The Grizzlies have indeed lost four in a row, but the point total surrendered has been on the decline (dropping from 116 last Wednesday down to 96 last night) and I think they matchup well with the Mavericks’ primary point scorers. Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince have the length it takes to frustrate Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis (combine for 37.6 percent of the shots and 40.8 percent of Dallas’ points), and while the Mavs’ duo is going to get their points it is all about limiting their efficiency. Dallas is a below average team when it comes to scoring in the paint, and with Zach Randolph/Ed Davis/Jon Leuer/Kosta Koufos playing significant minutes (the quartet totals over 90 minutes per game), I like the chances of Memphis determining the pace of play.
While Memphis has some nice defensive pieces, they have a few players that are capable of taking advantage of an at times questionable Mavericks defense (28th in points per shot against). Of the players who average at least 30 minutes per game, only Chris Paul has a better assist-to-turnover ratio than Mike Conley. Tony Allen ranks sixth in the league in two-point percentage of all the players who average at least ten points and have played in at least 16 games. And don’t sleep on 6-foot-10 Leuer, a third year player who has made a three pointer in five consecutive games and is shooting 54.3-percent from the field in his 28.9 minutes per game in December.
The Mavericks are still the pick to win the game because they can shoot the three-pointer with the best of them, but I’d be surprised to see them pull away from a gritty Grizzlies team.
Fun Fact: The Grizzlies have only played two back-to-backs this season, but their star players have stepped up in a big way. Randolph and Conley are averaging 43 points 53.3 percent shooting from the field (1.43 points per shot).