It’s hard enough trying to put together a fancy game plan to try and slow down some of the best athletes in the world. It’s even more infuriating to try to do it without a lot of practice time.
Thanks to the ramifications of COVID-19, that’s what the Dallas Mavericks and the other 29 NBA teams are facing. But surprise, surprise, surprise. Something happened to the Mavs on Friday morning that hasn’t happened since. .
“We had a shootout (Friday) morning,” interim head coach Sean Sweeney said. “But this is our first for a while.
“But I think in general you need to understand how much time you have or don’t have, (and) try to be clear and concise in your message.”
Memphis Grizzlies interim head coach Darko Rajakovic lamented the predicament that NBA coaches and players currently find themselves in.
“More or less, all teams are in the same situation,” Rajakovic said before the Mavs coached the Grizzlies, 112-85, Friday night in Memphis. “We are losing players to Covid, to injuries for different reasons, getting players on 10-day deals. There’s a lot going on right now. All the time we act like everything is normal and lead normal lives, and you see a room full of people with face masks.
“We are in the middle of a pandemic!. It also influences everything we do on the basketball court. Our preparation, our training, everything is done to try to keep our guys safe and to have bodies available to play games.
“Make your sophistication your simplicity,” he said. “That way guys understand what they’re trying to do and then can do it as hard and as good as they can.
“And then be prepared to go every night with who your opponent is and how to apply what your system is – the things that Coach (Jason) Kidd preaches – to that given opponent.”
With COVID-19 limiting in-person time for players and coaches, there’s a lot of improvisation going on.
“Our guys do a really good job of preparing for games on their own by watching a lot of movies, watching a lot of movies with their individual coaches which helps a lot with the preparation for each game,” Rajakovic said. “But whenever we have an opportunity we can’t forget, if you’re a young team, whenever we have a real opportunity we like to get on the pitch and talk about different situations and what we can do. offensively and defensively and just to allow this thing to continue to grow.
PORZINGIS STILL DISAPPEARED: Mavs interim head coach Sean Sweeney said he spoke to forward Kristaps Porzingis, who has missed the last seven games – the last six due to health and safety protocols.
“When I spoke to him he is doing quite well and hopes to be back very soon,” Sweeney said. “So regular positive communication.”
Porzingis has yet to play in a game in 2022. The last time he played — Dec. 31 in Sacramento — he finished with 24 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two blocks as the Mavs beat the Kings, 112-96.
“Porzingis is one hell of a player,” Memphis Grizzlies interim head coach Darko Rajakovic said. “He brings so much to this team. They definitely miss him.
“But at the same time, they have found a rhythm lately. They have just won six games in a row before losing to New York (against the Knicks on Wednesday). They seem to be playing well there, they play together and they compete at a high level.
Sweeney doesn’t know when Porzingis will be ready to play again. He’s also not sure what he was able to do on the basketball court.
“I think anything he’s allowed to do, he tries to do,” Sweeney said. “I don’t really know what the rules are.”
THE DEFENSE RULE THE DAY: The Mavs and Grizzlies have come a long way this season on defense.
When the two teams met on December 8, the Mavs were 20 years oldand in the NBA in defensive rating and the Grizzlies were last. Just over a month later, the Grizzlies are first in the league in defensive rating and the Mavs are fifth.
So how did the defensive rating improve so quickly in the middle of a season?
“I can’t speak for them and their coaches and what they do every day,” Mavs interim head coach Sean Sweeney said. “But for us, he tried to focus on daily improvement, understanding the things that matter most defensively, understanding what our strengths are and how we want to play, and then applying that to any opponent.
“Trying to do the things that matter most, focus on the 80% each day, then apply the 20% to whoever we play with that night.”
Grizzlies interim head coach Darko Rajakovic is very impressed with the defensive intensity the Mavs bring to the field and the way they clog passing lanes.
“They do a really good job of taking out the threes, they do a really good job of going one-on-one,” he said. “They have big, active bodies, and I give them some credit for the culture they’ve developed with the new coaching staff. You can see the results of this.
The Mavs defense was on point Friday as they held the Grizzlies to just 30 points in the second half, including just 12 in the fourth quarter. The results: The Mavs won, 112-85, and ended the Grizzlies’ 11-game winning streak as Memphis lost for the first time since suffering a 113-104 loss to Golden State Warriors on December 23.
Meanwhile, the 85 points is the fewest the Grizzlies have scored this season.
BRIEFLY: Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant passed Luka Doncic and takes second place in the final fan lap vote for next month’s all-star game in players voted for the Western Conference starting backcourt. Morant has 1,633,313 votes against 1,410,605 for Doncic. Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors leads the west backcourt with 4,463,426 votes. “His effectiveness this year has been pretty impressive,” Mavs interim head coach Sean Sweeney said of Morant. “Offensively, with his ability to attack the paint, it’s something that was strong before. But (he) finds different ways to get into it (into the paint), building on his game and some of his strengths in the past. Defensively, I think he’s done a good job for them in the role he’s been asked to play. But just his all-around play and efficiency has been pretty impressive here so far. In his Morant’s assessment, Doncic said: “I think he deserves the attention he is getting. He is very talented. By the way, Doncic had 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in Friday’s 112-85 win over the Grizzlies. It was the 40and triple-double in his three-and-a-half-year career. Amazingly, every other player who has played for the Mavs since becoming an NBA franchise in 1980 has combined for just 40 triple-doubles. Doncic said: “I think it’s good to hear that, obviously, but I think it’s a different kind of basketball.” The Mavs are now 17-10 in games Doncic has played this season and just 6-9 in games he has missed.