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Tuesday’s preview: Memphis Grizzlies at Dallas Mavericks

On Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center, the Dallas Mavericks will play host to the Memphis Grizzlies. The contest has plenty of playoff implications, with Memphis sitting in second place behind the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. More importantly, the Grizzlies lead the Southwest Division by 1.5 games over the Houston Rockets and are 2.5 ahead of the Mavericks.

Dallas is favored by 4.5 points at home over the Grizzlies, with an over/under of 201.

This is a game of contrasts. The Mavericks (30-15) are the second-highest scoring team in the NBA, averaging 107.8 per game. Only the Warriors are better, pouring in an inconceivable 111.1 points/game. Memphis (32-12) is a throwback to the 1990’s when men patrolled the paint, when a personal foul was always personal. The Grizzlies are the second-best scoring defense in the league, allowing 97.3 points/game. The reason for their defensive dominance is two-headed, led by the interior forces of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

Few teams can match the ability in the post which Memphis possesses. Gasol and Randolph are much more than defensive anchors, combining to score 35.8 points while grabbing 20.2 rebounds/night. Randolph, 33, is on pace to average a double-double for the eighth time in 10 seasons. Without question, he is one of the most underrated players of his generation.

Memphis also has a backcourt led by point guard Mike Conley Jr. One of the quieter stars in the game, Conley is a two-way player who is second on the Grizzlies in scoring with 17.7 points and 5.8 assists/game. Conley has plenty of men to hit with the open pass, including Courtney Lee and the newly-acquired Jeff Green.

Dallas has no shortage of talent in its own right. The Mavericks boast no less than five players scoring in double-figures, led by guard Monta Ellis and future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki. Additionally, Dallas made a big move when they traded with the Boston Celtics to acquire point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo has fit in seamlessly with the Mavericks, averaging 7.2 assists/game. Dallas also won big in an offseason deal with the New York Knicks, re-acquiring center Tyson Chandler. Chandler has been a menacing defensive presence while contributing offensively, totaling 10.5 points and 12.0 rebounds/game.

With February approaching, the division races are worthy of attention. Memphis and Dallas will be battling for important home-court advantage come April, along with Houston and the San Antonio Spurs in the Southwest. With so many lopsided divisions in the NBA this year, it will be all the more fun to watch this quartet battle it out.

Here are the other games on Tuesday evening, weather permitting (with odds):

Toronto Raptors (-3.5) at Indiana Pacers
Cleveland Cavaliers (-7.5) at Detroit Pistons
Milwaukee Bucks at Miami Heat (-4)
Chicago Bulls at Golden State Warriors (-10)
Washington Wizards at Los Angeles Lakers (-8)

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