By Bryan Murphy
It’s amazing what a win against a quality Western Conference team can do. After the Dallas Mavericks were humiliated last week in Indiana in the 107-81 loss to the Pacers, the Mavs bounced back tremendously against a fine Memphis Grizzlies squad. It also helps when two of your players who still aren’t 100 percent healthy yet, have their best outings of the season.
Mavericks Center JaVale McGee had his coming out party, so to speak, in the Friday night win against the Grizzlies. In a season high 18 minutes, McGee tallied 10 points, five rebounds, three blocks and four of his five field goals made were dunks and they were impressive jams at that. He almost made it five when he nearly threw down the play-of-the-night on a fast break where Chandler Parsons just barely over threw him on the alley-oop lob pass.
“I threw him a horrible alley-oop tonight and he still almost caught it and threw it down,” Parsons said after the game. “He’s a freak.”
Parsons also went on to call McGee a “game changer’ for this Mavs team and that he is the type of Center he has been accustomed to playing with in his career. No offense to Zaza Pachulia, of course, who has been continuing his outstanding play and hustle recording his fifteenth double-double of the season in the Memphis victory.
Speaking of Chandler Parsons, he had quite the game as well with the mighty impressive stat line of 16 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Parsons’ minutes per game have been slowly rising game by game and he notched 32 minutes Friday night, the first time this season that he has had at least 30 minutes played in a game all season. He has embraced his current sixth man role but he also expects to be returning to his starting role again soon.
“Everybody wants a nice cooked steak, but nobody wants to see you chopping up the cows in the back,” Rick Carlisle said in his post game presser. “The last five or six months, Parsons has been in the back butchering the cows.”
Parsons and his cows, or Mavericks I should say, now must focus their attention on three Eastern Conference opponents this week. The Mavs start the week with a back-to-back games in the northeast against the explosive Toronto Raptors and then the lowly Brooklyn Nets. The Raptors got the best of the Mavs earlier in the first week of the season in the lone meeting between these two teams, 102-91. In that game, Dallas shot just 38 percent and received poor outings from Pachulia and Deron Williams, two players who will need to step up Tuesday night. The two stars for the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, cannot do what they did in the previous game if the Mavs want to have any chance of snagging a victory north of the border. The two combined for 47 points in that game and Lowry even had a double-double with 25 points and 10 assists.
Wednesday night in Brooklyn isn’t a “must win” but it is one of those that will be mightily embarrassing if they don’t. Just two seasons ago, the Nets had high expectations with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett headlining the team. Now, just one of those players, Joe Johnson, remains and the Nets are basically playing for a lottery pick that isn’t even theirs. The Nets traded their 2016 first-round pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade. And speaking of Joe Johnson, he has hurt the Nets more than he has helped them this season. On the season, he’s averaging just 11 PPG on 36 percent shooting. What is even more alarming for Nets fans is that in his last four games, Johnson is averaging just 7 PPG on 25 percent shooting. Johnson hasn’t been just bad for Joe Johnson’s standards; he’s been just plain bad.
The Mavs’ week will close out the week Saturday night at home against the star-studded Chicago Bulls. We all know about Derrick Rose and what he can do on the basketball court when he is healthy, but he really hasn’t been all that great as of late. Besides the 34 point outburst in the ridiculous four overtime loss to Detroit last week, Rose hadn’t scored at least 20 points in a game since November 16. One of the reasons for that may be because there has been a new sheriff in town since last season. Jimmy Butler is the new go-to guy in Chicago and he is having an outstanding season thus far. Butler is one of those in between all-star and superstar caliber players that contain the defensive game to match his offensive game. He’ll guard your best player while also averaging over 21 PPG and can score in a variety of ways. Dallas will also have its hands full with veteran Pau Gasol who is still playing at a high level at 35-years-old.
The Eastern Conference has been much improved this season and this week will not be a cake walk for the Mavs. Winning two-of-three would be ideal heading into two insanely tough games looming next week against the red-hot Golden State Warriors and the Miami Heat.
Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
12/22 @Raptors 6:30 pm
12/23 @Nets 6:30 pm
12/26 vs. Bulls 7:30 pm