Look what the circus lugged into town! It’s the Memphis Grizzlies, losers of 20 of their previous 21 meetings with the bear-taming Dallas Mavericks. Careful about that we-always-beat-those-sluggish-beasts-and-carve-them-into-Governor's-decor attitude, though. Already this season, the Mavs have established that traditional streaks against the NBA’s woebegone mean nothing. We should take nothing for granted here. We should avoid being asleep at the switch. (That goes for you, too, ESPN.com, which is somehow under the impression that Jerry Stackhouse is starting tonight's game.)
Game 1, Houston at Dallas: Coming in, the Mavs had won 10 of their last 12 home games with the Rockets. Mavs lose.
Game 5, Dallas at Denver: Coming, in, the Mavs had lost their last two games in Denver last season, but before that had won eight of 11 in the Mile High City. Mavs lose.
Game 6: Dallas at Clippers: Coming in, the Mavs had swept the four-game season series with the Clippers last year, had won six straight against LA, and had won eight of their past nine meetings with the Clips in LA. Mavs lose.
Game 8, Dallas at Chicago: Coming, the Mavs had won eight of their last nine games at Chicago. Mavs lose.
Game 9, Orlando at Dallas: Coming in, the Mavs had won 10 straight home meetings with the Magic. Mavs lose.
Game 10, Mavs at New York: Coming in, the Mavs had won 12 of their last 13 games with the Knicks and five of their last six in Madison Square Garden. Mavs win – but need OT to do it.
The Rockets, the Nuggets, the Clippers, the Bulls, the Magic, the Knicks. … traditional Dallas patsies all.
So it is with the Grizz. Dallas has beaten Memphis 15 straight times. Dallas has beaten Memphis in 20 of the last 21 meetings. Dallas is 44-7 against that club. And Memphis’ lone franchise highlight, its 2006 playoff appearance? Dallas was there to ruin that, too, with a four-game, first-round sweep of that group, an outcome that at the time looked like the burial of the Grizz’ best-ever player, Pau Gasol.
New generation of Grizzlies now, though.
Maybe it’s the improvement of Memphis or maybe it’s because of some Dallas slippage that preceded the present three-game win streak, but this feels like a Southwest Division showdown. (At least a little bit.) Memphis again has a player to watch in O.J. Mayo, who is scoring 20.1 points per game to keep him alongside Chicago’s Derrick Rose in the ROY race. O.J. scored 30 back-to-back last week. Rudy Gay is also a 20-ppg guy, and Pau’s little brother is now Memphis’ center.Marc is at 12 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
At the same time, the Grizzles are just 4-7 – worse than Dallas’ 5-7 mark – and had lost four straight before topping Sacto this week.
Tonight would be a fine time to get a first win at home (the Mavs are 0-4 at the AAC), to get Josh Howard back (will update you on his ankle throughout the day), to continue to move away from the Stackhouse mess ( I’m thinking not)and to take another step toward the anticipated December Do-Over. A win here, and a home win over Indy on Tuesday, and the Mavs are back to .500. Then comes a Cali roadie at the Lakers and Sacto (so Dallas stays at .500?) and then the seven straight home games to begin December.
Said Jason Terry: “We haven’t won at home yet. It’s very important that we do that. So this next game against Memphis is a must. It’s a must-win for us and we see it no other way.’’
A must-win? As is often the case with the excitable Jet, that’s a bit of an overstatement. A must-not-take-anything-for-granted game? This year’s early break from tradition proves that it is that.