<
>

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

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."