The season is already halfway over for the Dallas Mavericks.
And they’re still searching for their first signature win.
The Mavs are 28-13 and tied with Houston for the Western Conference’s No. 4 seed. But of the other seven teams in the rugged West that would qualify for postseason play if the playoffs were to start Monday, the Mavs are just 1-8 against those teams.
That lone victory came against a tired and hobbled San Antonio Spurs squad that was without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter and Patty Mills.
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And the Mavs had to outscore the Spurs, who played just eight players that night, 24-16 in the fourth quarter to win that game 99-93 in Dallas on Dec. 20.
As the schedule flips to the second half of the season, the Mavs have a golden opportunity to right all the wrongs from the first 41 games. And that starts with a matinee game at 4 p.m. Monday aganst the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum.
With Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph on the blocks and Mike Conley Jr., Tony Allen and Courtney Lee on the wings — plus the addition of Jeff Green — the Grizzlies have to be considered one of the favorites to win the West this season.
“It’s a great opportunity with Memphis in their arena,” forward Chandler Parsons said after Sunday’s practice at American Airlines Center. “No better way than to go out there and prove something.
“If we want to be considered a top-tier team we’ve got to go in and beat a team like Memphis.”
Overcoming the obstacles that come with defeating a quality team from the West wasn’t the only thing on coach Rick Carlisle’s mind Sunday. He knows the Mavs’ schedule in the second half is more challenging than the first 41 games.
With the Mavs just 14 games into the trade that brought point guard Rajon Rondo to Dallas, Carlisle insists his team is constantly going to be a work in progress.
“I don’t ever believe that a team is just there,” Carlisle said. “Even when you get rolling and get your mojo going there’s always challenges to keep it going.
“We’re still working on really getting it going. The only way we’re going to get there is to compete hard in the hard game.”
And Monday’s game against the Grizzlies can definitely be classified as a hard game. Especially with Gasol and Randolph using their oversized bodies to cause headaches, either setting up near the basket or moving to the perimter.
“That’s the majority of their offense is down low in the paint with two big guys, so we’ve got to make sure we keep them at bay,” center Tyson Chandler said.
“But the one benefit we could have is if we get the rebound we can get out and get into some fast breaks and early tempo.”
Anything would be better than what the Mavs were unable to accomplish out against the West in the first half of the season.
“This game is an opportunity for us,” Carlisle said. “It’s not easy at all. The whole league is about rising to big-time challenges.”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760