It's been a season of career highs for a few Memphis Grizzlies players, which is probably why they're leading the Southwest Division and are one of the top teams in wins.
The Grizzlies try to add to their victory total Friday night versus the division-rival Dallas Mavericks in the conclusion of a three-game homestand.
Memphis has been receiving major contributions from double-double machine Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen and Mike Conley and is off to a franchise- best 17-6 start. Randolph leads the NBA with 19 double-doubles and is averaging 17.1 points and a career-best 12.9 rebounds. Gasol has posted career-high averages of 14.8 points and 4.0 assists, while Conley has enjoyed career highs in scoring (13.9), steals (2.36) and 3-point percentage (.417).
Allen is averaging a career-high 1.90 steals.
Defense has been an essential aspect of the Grizzlies' game and it was on display in Wednesday's 90-80 win versus the Milwaukee Bucks. Randolph led five players in double figures with 15 points and 17 boards, Rudy Gay scored 13 points and Gasol added 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Grizz, who held the Bucks to 35.3 shooting and posted 24 points off 17 turnovers.
"That's where we lay our hat at is on the defensive end," Allen told NBA.com after notching a season-best four steals. "Ever since I got here, that's been our motto, holding it down on the defensive end, playing in and out basketball. Whenever we do that, I think we are more effective."
The Grizzlies, one game after holding Chicago to just 71 points, have not allowed 100 points in 22 straight games and lead the league in points allowed per game (89.5). What's even more impressive is that Memphis has forced at least 10 turnovers in 127 consecutive games.
When Memphis hits the 100-point mark, which it hasn't been done since Dec. 4 versus Phoenix, it is 9-0. It has won 31 of its last 40 regular-season games dating back to last season, and is 22-2 in the previous 24 home games. The Grizz owns an 11-2 mark as the host this season and will pay a visit to Houston Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Dallas hasn't hit rock bottom just yet but it hasn't been a walk in the park either with four losses in the past five games.
The Mavericks dropped a 110-95 home decision to the defending champion Miami Heat Thursday night as rookie Jae Crowder led the way with 15 points off the bench and both Dahntay Jones and Bernard James netted 12 in a losing effort. Leading scorer O.J. Mayo (20.2 ppg) had just eight points on 3-of-14 shooting.
Miami used a 16-4 run for a 15-point advantage at 52-37 to put the game away and led by double digits the entire second half.
Darren Collison scored 11 points for the banged-up Mavs, who are still without 11-time All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki (knee). Guard Derek Fisher (knee), forward Brandon Wright (ankle) and forward Elton Brand (groin) all missed the loss to the Heat and are questionable Friday. Nowitzki isn't expected to return until some time after Christmas and is recovering from surgery.
Nowitzki spoke to the media following his first practice Wednesday.
"First time really with some practice time, some contact and played some two on two afterwards," Nowitzki said. "This practice obviously wasn't very long. We have a back-to-back coming up here and the boys played last night, so practice was really more of a prepping for tomorrow's game. But we did some contact drills, shot the floor and played some two on two afterwards, so first time I really got going a little bit and it feels good to be back out.
"Unfortunately, these next couple of days I don't think there's a lot of practice time. We have a back-to-back, then we have another game on Sunday, so I'm going to be playing some one on one or some two on two with some low- minute guys and then slowly get better and better."
Boy, the Mavericks would love to see him out there as soon as possible. They will begin a three-game road trip Friday night against Memphis, then will hit the road to San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
Dallas is winless in its last three games outside of Big D and owns a 4-10 record as the visitor. In other teams news, Mavs defensive stalwart Shawn Marion needs 18 games for 1,000 in his career and Mayo has averaged 25.2 points in the 12 wins this season. Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle is nine wins shy of 500 in his career. Carlisle is 491-339 overall and 210-128 with Dallas.
Carlisle's team lost two of three meetings with Memphis a season ago and has dropped four of the last five matchups between the Southeast foes. The Mavericks are winless in their previous three visits to FedEx Forum.