Shortly after the Dallas Mavericks had disposed of the Memphis Grizzlies 111-99 on Saturday, coach Rick Carlisle couldn’t stop gushing over the performance of forward Shawn Marion.
On a night the Mavs boosted their record to 2-1, Marion found himself guarding 6-foot-1 Mike Conley Jr. and 6-9 Zach Randolph. Just the thought of someone of Marion’s 6-7 frame being able to expand his defensive game to that degree really impressed Carlisle to the point where he started speaking of Marion in historical terms.
“If you think of the history of the modern game, I can think of less than five — maybe six guys — that can guard a guy like Conley for big minutes and then turn around and guard Zach Randolph and any other kind of guy in between,” Carlisle said. “[Michael] Jordan could do it, [Scottie] Pippen showed that he could do it, LeBron James does it.
“I could probably come up with some other names, but there aren’t many. So we’re talking about a really special player.”
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In addition to his defensive assignments at American Airlines Center, Marion used his special talents to tally 21 points, grab 14 rebounds and block two shots. Carlisle characterized it as redemption for Marion, who had just seven points during Friday’s 113-105 loss in Houston.
“He really personalized this game tonight,” Carlisle said. “He felt lousy about [Friday] night.
“He knew we needed a spark, and from start to finish he was on.”
The Mavs were on from the start as they busted out to a 32-16 lead at the conclusion of the opening quarter. Dallas’ lead swelled to 47-26 midway through the second period, only to see the Grizzles go on a 17-1 tear to close within five just before halftime.
“It’s the NBA, teams make runs,” Carlisle deadpanned. “We made a run [Friday] night before getting our [butts] kicked.
“We had to withstand it. We had a paradigm shift at the start of the second half. We had to get back to the side of having an edge and playing with an edge and remembering [Friday] night and remembering the run. And I thought the guys did.”
Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavs with 24 points and six boards. He now has 20-plus points in each of the first three games. Monta Ellis contributed 18 points, Samuel Dalembert finished with 14 points and nine boards, and Vince Carter chipped in with 11 points.
In addition to those players, the Mavs saw the end of Jose Calderon’s scoring woes. In the first two games, Calderon had just five points on 1-of-15 shooting as his shot looked out of kilter.
But on Saturday, Calderon tallied 13 of his 14 points in the first half and finished the night converting 4-of-11 shots from the field.
“His jump shot is by far the lowest on the list of whatever problems or challenges we may have,” Carlisle said. “If you want to talk about his rhythm and conditioning and the fact that I’ve been doing a lousy job of getting him good shots, then you can talk about that.
“He’s a great shooter and that’s why we got him, and hey, he made three big ones tonight. So he’s going to keep getting better.”
A night after allowing Houston to shoot 51 free throws, the Mavs got the better end of that stat and went to the line 46 times — and made 40 — while the Grizzlies attempted only 26 free throws. The Mavs also turned the ball over only 11 times and were able to utilize their fast-paced offense to their advantage.
“This is a great win for us,” Carlisle said. “We had a lot of balance, we had a lot of guys step up. We’ll enjoy it for now and then we got to get ready for Tuesday.”