Grizzlies, Mavericks look to bounce back from losses
Two of the league's most popular young point guards go head-to-head for the first time when the Dallas Mavericks visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.
Both teams will be playing the second night of a back-to-back, with travel in between. Each also will be seeking a first win in the two-game set.
The Mavericks wasted a 38-point effort from their star point guard, Luka Doncic, in a 106-102 home loss to the New York Knicks on Friday night.
Doncic, who had been just 3-for-10 on previous 3-pointers in the game, misfired on a potential game-tying 34-footer with 18.8 seconds remaining.
The Grizzlies, meanwhile, hung with host Orlando for three quarters before the Magic went on a 34-8 run over the final 12 minutes to hand Memphis a 118-86 loss on a rare off night for Ja Morant.
The rookie was held to eight points in 26 minutes, and had his seven assists nearly offset by six turnovers.
If there's an advantage when each attempts to avoid a second loss in 48 hours, it's that Morant was pulled after 26 minutes on Friday, whereas Doncic fought to the finish on a 35-minute night.
The Grizzlies are intentionally keeping their rookie's minutes down, coach Taylor Jenkins noted earlier this week
"For lack of a better phrase, we kind of want to put some money in the bank moving forward with him," he explained to reporters. "I've always been a big believer: You start playing in the mid-30s (minutes per game), you kind of wear down. Our rookies, including him, have never played 82 games in a season."
Even though the Mavericks avoided a four-game, season-series sweep against Memphis last season with a 129-127 overtime win in April, Doncic has never beaten the Grizzlies. That's because he was out of action for the final two meetings last season with a knee injury.
Not that his presence made much of a difference in the first two duels. He had a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double, but shot just 6-for-20, when the Grizzlies recorded a 10-point home win in October, then had 22 points but just four rebounds and two assists in a 30-point home blowout in March.
Doncic has flirted with at least a double-double in all but one game this season, and added to his triple-double total with a fourth Friday, accumulating 14 rebounds and 10 assists to complement his 38 points.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle insists the NBA is seeing an evolving Doncic, who recently has added to his offensive arsenal with a European-style floater in the lane.
"The way the big guys are playing the pick-and-roll now -- dropping, dropping and creating that big gap of space -- the floater is really important," Carlisle explained. "It's been a shot that European players historically have mastered, the great ones. Luka's no different. He's a smart guy. If there's some kind of opening, he'll find a way to exploit it."
Doncic and Morant might never have faced off, but they are surely familiar with one another. Doncic posted congratulations on Morant's Instagram account after the Murray State standout recorded a triple-double in the NCAA Tournament last March.
Morant has yet to post even a double-double as an NBA rookie, but he has already made his mark as a big-time scorer. He thrashed Brooklyn for 30 points in his third game, and had a run of 24, 23 and 26 points before Friday's aborted effort.
--Field Level Media
Updated November 9, 2019