Defense helps Mavericks stay hot as Luka Doncic outduels Ja Morant in Dallas

In a matchup between two of the best teams in the league, the Mavericks defeated the Grizzlies for the second time in 10 days. At the final buzzer, the Mavericks cruised to a 104-91 victory led by Luka Doncic, who dueled out opposing superstar point guard Ja Morant.

Prior to this game, Memphis had won 13 of their previous 15 games, while Dallas had won 10 of their last 12.

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The Slovenian finished with 37 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and three steals while Morant registered 35 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. This match was the 17th time that Doncic, who already has 41 triple-doubles in the fourth season of his career, missed a triple-double for a rebound or an assist.

The duo put on a show, but in the end, the hosts’ defense had the last word as they held the Grizzlies to just 91 points.

It is the eighth time in January and the 10th in its last 14 games that the Dallas defense, owner of the best defensive rating in the league in January, has kept his opponent below 100 points.

In this contest, they held the visitors to 37.4 percent shooting from the field and just four 3-pointers at 16.7 percent efficiency. Those numbers are a stark contrast to the Grizzlies’ shooting numbers since last 15 games – 46.7 percent from the field and 32.8 percent on three-pointers.

“Our shots come and go… But our defense, that’s just effort,” Dallas winger Dorian Finney-Smith said after the game. That’s what I call wanting. Either you want to or you don’t. I feel like we’ve risen to that challenge.”

Finney-Smith nails it. The Mavericks have been winning games recently with their defense. Despite having the offense ranked 23rd in January, they have the second best net rating in the league.

For the month of January, the Mavericks’ opponent numbers are the best in the league: 95.6 points allowed, 42.4 percent shooting efficiency and 27.3 percent efficiency on 3-point shots.

With this win, the Mavericks bounce back from their Friday loss to the Phoenix Suns, but they have a tough test ahead of them. After a day off, they travel to San Francisco to take on the Golden State Warriors, whom they held to a season low of 82 points earlier in the month on January 5.

On the other hand, the Grizzlies continue their road trip to San Antonio for what is a heavy schedule ahead. Of its next 10 games, including against the Spurs, Memphis plays eight on the road.