By Don Wade, The Sports Xchange
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A year ago, the Memphis Grizzlies literally limped into the playoffs. So this year, a virtual no-count 100-93 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the last game of the season wasn’t about to bring them down.
“In Memphis, it’s our time to show what we got,” said point guard Mike Conley, who had 15 points in Wednesday night’s game at FedExForum. “We don’t really get the national attention and we float under the radar for a long time. Playoffs are normally the time when everybody wakes up and says, ‘All right, Memphis is pretty good. They’re a team to be reckoned with.'”
Conley just played the first half, and center Marc Gasol played 24 minutes and finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
The Grizzlies (43-39) are the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, where they will meet the No. 2 seed San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
Wrecked by injuries a year ago, Memphis used an NBA-record 28 players. The Spurs swept the depleted Grizzlies in the first round and San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said, “It wasn’t a fair fight.”
Forward JaMychal Green was one of the few Grizzlies able to play in the playoffs last season.
“It motivates us a lot,” he said of the result a year ago. “We don’t want to have that same feeling.”
Dallas (33-49) broke a five-game game losing streak. The Mavs rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit and outscored the Grizzlies 30-19 in the fourth quarter when it was mostly a matchup of young players.
“That group that was out there at the end, everybody did something good,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.
“The younger guys did a great job of playing within a flow, getting good shots and playing solid defense,” added veteran center Nerlens Noel (10 points, seven rebounds).
Leading the effort Wednesday for Dallas was swingman Nicolas Brussino, shot 4-for-8 from long range, scored 15 points and added seven rebounds. Guard Devin Harris had 15 points and eight assists off the bench. Forward Dwight Powell finished with 12 points.
Memphis power forward Zach Randolph had 15 points off the bench, and with his first basket, he passed Magic Johnson (17,707 points) as the NBA’s 75th all-time leading scorer. Memphis small forward Vince Carter (five points, four assists) passed Kobe Bryant for 13th on the league’s all-time games played list with 1,347.
Dallas shot 44 percent from the floor and was 9 for 34 from 3-point range for 26.5 percent. Memphis made 39.3 percent of its shots from the field and went 8 for 25 from distance.
Grizzlies coach David Fizdale watched his young guys and bench players hit 6 of 26 shots in the fourth quarter and make five turnovers.
“They stunk,” Fizdale said. “The effort was there. The execution was extremely poor.”
Asked how he would grade his first season as an NBA head coach, Fizdale said: “I think I learned a lot. Through good stuff and through some hard lessons.”
He knows more learning is just ahead, too.
“This year has been a roller coaster with lineups and guys in and out and different things,” Fizdale said. “All of us getting used to each other, merging cultures and everything. Now that we are here, everything we talked about all year and prepared for is in our face. I think they are really ready for it.”