Dirk Nowitzki

Being guarded by Marc Gasol isn’t a treat, but Dirk Nowitzki made the most of it with some big buckets to cap off a 103-95 win for the Dallas Mavericks over the Memphis Grizzlies, the kind of win that makes you think this team might actually be capable of doing great things in the postseason.

It’s actually been quite a while since the Mavericks have had any kind of playoff success. Their last playoff series win? The 2011 NBA finals against the Miami Heat, winning the championship. Since then it’s been an early exit in 2012, not making the playoffs in 2013 and again in 2014, losing in the first round. This season they seem a lot closer to battling for home court advantage than even making the playoffs, but things are too close to call this early in the crowded West.

Despite a bad offensive night for Rajon Rondo with just six points, the point guard did make some big baskets late in the game and played excellent defense on Mike Conley down the stretch. The Mavericks depend less on his scoring ability anyway, with most of his points being a bonus anyway. There are plenty of others who can put up points and a lot of them, helping Rondo focus on what he’s actually good at.

Monta Ellis led the Mavericks with 25 points, adding 7 assists in the process, including a nice on on the give and go with Dirk Nowitzki as the Mavericks closed out the game. A possession earlier Nowitzki managed to shake off Gasol with his notorious one-leg fall back, followed by escaping Gasol and waiting for Ellis to find him on his way to the basket. If Gasol gets beaten, there really isn’t anyone else on this Memphis team to make a stop near the rim.

The Grizzlies added Tony Allen in a trade, hoping to counter the lack of offense they’ve been getting from Tony Allen, who is down to less than 20 minutes a game recently. The problem is when Green has a bad shooting day, the whole concept of upgrading their offense at the expense of an elite defender falls apart. Green scored 11 points on 5-of-14 from the field including 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. The Grizzlies shot just 13.6% from 3-point range.

The Western teams are eating each other while the Warriors are distancing themselves from the pack, now 3.5 games ahead of the Blazers, 5 from Memphis and 5.5 from the Mavericks. This win for the Mavericks on the road certainly builds confidence and might even be useful in a tiebreaker with the records so close between the teams. More than anything, these games and battles are a perfect example of the parity in the West this season, and how we don’t have a clue about the real, clear cut championship candidates at this point.

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