Mavericks-Grizzlies Preview

The Associated Press

The Dallas Mavericks couldn't get their offense in gear as they stumbled in their first game following the All-Star break.

Heading to Memphis might not be the best place for the defending NBA champs to try to fix that.

Dallas continues a busy stretch of its schedule Wednesday night when the surging Grizzlies open the second half eyeing a season-high fifth straight home win.

Winners of seven of nine heading into the break, the Mavericks (21-14) lost 93-92 at home to New Jersey on Tuesday to finish its three-game stretch in Dallas with one win.

The Mavs shot 36.0 percent from the field, missing 14 consecutive field goals at one point.

"It was brutal, like the whole game. We were off. We couldn't make a shot,'' Dirk Nowitzki said after scoring 24 points on 7-of-19 shooting. "It was ugly, ball-handling and shooting. Everything was sloppy. It was a tough night. It wasn't the way we wanted to start this off, with a loss a home.''

Dallas, which plays eight games in the next 11 days, begins a stretch of six of eight away from home. It will be the first of two trips to Memphis in 2011-12.

The Mavs' last game at FedExForum, an 89-70 loss Jan. 15, 2011, was one they'd probably like to forget. With Nowitzki back following a nine-game absence with a sprained right knee, Dallas shot a season-low 32.4 percent in its lowest scoring game of the season.

Nowitzki was ejected in that contest for arguing a foul call, and the Grizzlies capitalized on his third-period departure with their best defensive effort of 2010-11.

Memphis (19-15) has held its opponents to 91.8 points per game while winning 13 of 18 at home this season. The Grizzlies, a season-high four games over .500, will try to defend FedExForum again and win for the eighth time in 10 games overall.

That's a major accomplishment considering All-Star forward Zach Randolph has missed the last 30 games with a torn MCL.

Memphis has won 18 of those contests following last Wednesday's 89-76 victory over Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia.

"I think a lot of us don't understand how well we've done for ourselves without having Zach there,'' point guard Mike Conley said. "He's a big part of our team going forward and last season in the playoffs. With his absence, still being in the hunt and in the playoffs like we are is amazing."

What's even better news for Conley, Rudy Gay, All-Star center Marc Gasol and the rest of the Grizzlies is that Randolph participated in the non-contact portion of Monday's practice and could return soon.

The Mavericks are likely glad they won't be facing Randolph, who averaged 24.3 points and 12.7 rebounds in three games against them in 2010-11.

In the teams' last matchup, Randolph hit a jumper with 0.3 seconds left to give the Grizzlies a 104-103 victory in Dallas on March 6.

Memphis went 3-1 against the Mavericks in 2010-11, posting its first season series win over Dallas. The Mavericks have won 54 of 67 against the Grizzlies, including the playoffs.

If Memphis can extend its home winning streak to five - the team last accomplished that during a 6-0 run from March 14-April 2 - it will match a franchise record with a third consecutive victory over Dallas.

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