Grizzlies, down 0-2 to Mavs, looking for answers

Updated: May 3, 2006, 4:15 PM ET
Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Grizzlies' newfound togetherness and winning attitude has been missing in the playoffs. Their stingy defense has been anything but so far.

Perhaps now, though, the homecourt advantage will come into play -- or maybe even some Memphis mojo. Whatever. The Grizzlies need help.

Down 0-2 in their playoff series with Dallas, the Grizzlies took a break Thursday to contemplate their elusive search for a postseason victory. And they needed a day off.

"They clear their heads, come back tomorrow, get a good day of practice and then go on from there," said Memphis coach Mike Fratello.

Play resumes Saturday at FedEx Forum.

While expecting a tough go, the Grizzlies began their third NBA playoff series with confidence -- on a winning streak and with the distractions of past personality conflicts out of the way.

But none of that has made much difference so far, and it's clear something has to change. Fewer turnovers would be a good place to start.

"We've hit this stretch of -- let's say -- four turnovers in five possessions or seven turnovers in eight possessions. The game breaks open and they put points on the board quickly," Fratello said. "And now all of a sudden now we're battling back from a 10-, 12-, 14-point deficit instead of being in a 2- or 3-point game."

Memphis had 19 turnovers in Game 1 and 20 in Game 2, and Dallas scored many of them.

The Grizzlies were swept in both of their previous playoff appearances for the franchise, last year by Phoenix and the year before by San Antonio. Now Memphis has gone 0-10 in the postseason, breaking New Jersey's record of six losses before a playoff win.

The Grizzlies ended the regular season winning eight of their last nine games and leading the league in defense, allowing 88.5 points a game. They finished the 2004-05 regular season by losing five of the final eight and wrapped up the previous season losing six of eight.

After the playoffs last season, Grizzlies president Jerry West made major personnel changes that included getting rid of Jason Williams and Bonzi Wells and adding Eddie Jones and Bobby Jackson.

Preparing for Dallas, the Grizzlies talked often about how much better they were performing as a team because the personnel changes eased tensions in the locker room and brought in playoff experience.

But that confidence was hard to spot in Game 1, which the Mavericks won 103-93 by taking advantage of Memphis turnovers, a slow start by Pau Gasol and 31-point shooting by Dirk Nowitzki.

Gasol, the Grizzlies' scoring leader, led Memphis with 24 points but was held to three points and no field goals in the first half.

Memphis started stronger in Game 2 but dozed off for a big chunk of the second and third quarters, failing to score from the field for almost 11 minutes.

The Mavericks went up by 19 points, which they eventually pushed to 20, and ended with a 94-79 victory. Again, Nowitzki scored 31 points. Gasol had 16.

But despite all that, Dallas coach Avery Johnson said he wasn't counting the Grizzlies out.

"This series is not over," Johnson said. "We've been in that position [down 0-2] before and we have a lot of respect for what they do throughout the game and see why they are one of the top teams in the Western Conference."

The Mavericks lost the first two games of the 2005 playoffs, then went to Houston and won the next two on the way to taking the series in seven.

Johnson said the Grizzlies will play hard in Memphis, but he still expects the Mavericks to set the tempo.

"We don't play as fast as we used to play," he said. "But we still play a little faster than Memphis."

Nowitzki said he also expects a determined push from the Grizzlies before their hometown fans.

"All competitors in this league have a pride about themselves," he said. "Nobody throws the towel in. Everybody wants to find and show what they're made of. They'll come out firing from all angles."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press