Australian Josh Green stepped up in a big way but it was not enough for the Dallas Mavericks, who fell to a 104-88 defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday [AEDT].
Both teams were down star players, with Kyrie Irving (right foot soreness), Luka Doncic (left thigh strain) and Christian Wood (right foot soreness) sidelined by injury, while Ja Morant remains unavailable for Memphis.
The Grizzlies confirmed last week that Morant would miss at least four games after posting a video of himself waving a gun in a nightclub, with the NBA still investigating the incident.
It was later reported on Tuesday by ESPN that Morant has since entered a counselling program, with no timetable in place for his return.
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Without Morant though, it was Desmond Bane who led the scoring for the Grizzlies, scoring 23 points to go with seven rebounds and just as many assists.
David Roddy, meanwhile, added a handy 19 points and five rebounds off the bench while Dillon Brooks drained four 3-pointers in the win.
As for the Mavs, Jaden Hardy started strong with 16 of the team’s 25 first-quarter points and finished the game with 28 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
It was not just all the rookie though, with Green backing up a strong last-start effort with 23 points, five rebounds and seven assists.
Green had recently found himself in a bit of a slump on the offensive side of the ball in particular, failing to score in double figures in eight of his last nine games.
As the Australian explained recently though, that is more of a reflection of finding his fit in the new-look Mavericks alongside ball-dominant teammates in Doncic and Irving.
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“Playing with two of the best players in the world, you’re going to have to sacrifice, and I’m completely fine with that,” Green said.
“But that’s for me to figure out, not them. It’s going to work. There’s no question about that.”
With Doncic and Irving injured though, Green has taken on greater responsibility in back-to-back games against Memphis, scoring 21 and 23 points while putting up combined 31 shots.
Green was doing it all on Tuesday, aggressively driving to the basket with a soft finish to earn plenty of praise from Jeff Van Gundy in commentary for ESPN.
“He has improved so much offensively from when he first came in the NBA,” said Van Gundy.
“He was way behind skill-wise and now shooting it better from 3, a good attack there in the open court against Kennard, the crossover, the extension. He always had the athleticism, the body. He’s getting much, much better.”
Green was dishing out dimes too, including this pinpoint bounce pass for Justin Holiday in the second quarter.
“Wow, Green thread the needle,” Mark Jones said in commentary.
“Right on the money,” added Van Gundy.
“That was a beautiful, on-point bounce pass from Green.”
The loss leaves Dallas at 34-35 and in a precarious position, just one win behind sixth seed Golden State and one loss ahead of the 12th seed Utah Jazz.
The Jazz went down 119-115 to the Miami Heat on Tuesday despite 38 points from Lauri Markkanen, although the Warriors made a fast start against the Phoenix Suns off the back of 33 first-half points from Klay Thompson.
Earlier in the day the Detroit Pistons snapped an 11-game losing skid when they defeated the Indiana Pacers 117-97.
It was not just the lowly Pistons that picked up a rare win though, with the Houston Rockets stunning NBA title hopefuls Boston with a hard-earned 111-109 victory.
Jalen Green starred for the Rockets, scoring 28 points to go with seven rebounds and three assists while Kevin Porter Jr. (14 points, 13 assists) and rookie Jabari Smith Jr. (24 points, 12 rebounds) had double-doubles.
Jaylen Brown kept the Celtics in the game with 43 points while Jayson Tatum had 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
The Celtics threatened to steal the win late, rallying into striking distance and getting within one point with less than a minute left having trailed by as much as 11 with four on the clock.
Boston, who was without Robert Williams (strained left hamstring), had a chance to tie the game and sent it to overtime but Tatum missed the layup.
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