Jonas Valanciunas, Grizzlies meet Mavericks in key matchup

NBA

Jonas Valanciunas is riding the best double-double streak in Memphis Grizzlies history and he looks to add another to the total Wednesday night when the Memphis Grizzlies host the Dallas Mavericks.

Valanciunas’ stretch of 15 consecutive double-doubles is one better than the team mark Zach Randolph set in January of 2011.

The big man was superb while surpassing Randolph as he recorded 26 points on 12-of-15 shooting and collected 14 rebounds in Monday’s 101-90 home victory over the Chicago Bulls.

But he wasn’t interested in taking all the credit for an effort that improved Memphis’ record to 5-2 in April.

“It’s not an individual sport,” Valanciunas said. “I would not be doing it without my teammates, first of all. Second thing, I’m playing with a high energy. I’m putting a lot of work in trying to go for every rebound, and trying to go for every putback. Stuff like that. That pays off.”

Point guard Ja Morant wasn’t about to let Valanciunas deflect all the credit.

“Jonas is Jonas, man. He’s a big-time player for us,” Morant said. “He commands the paint and protects the paint. He’s a walking double-double.

“We just have to keep him going. He’s playing at a very high level right now.”

Valanciunas’ latest stellar performance sets the stage for a crucial game between the Grizzlies and Mavericks.

Dallas has three of four and through Monday’s games sits seventh in the Western Conference, 1 1/2 games ahead of the eighth-place Grizzlies.

This season, the seventh through 10th seeds will be part of a play-in round into the main draw of the playoffs. So getting to sixth in the West is extremely crucial, and the Mavs are two games behind sixth-place Portland with 19 games remaining in the regular season.

Mavericks star point guard Luka Doncic was vocal about the format following Monday’s 113-95 home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

“I don’t understand the idea of the play-in (tournament),” Doncic said. “You play 72 games to get in the playoffs, then maybe you lose two in a row and you’re out of the playoffs. I don’t see the point of that.

“We’re just trying to get to the sixth spot. That’s our goal right now. Maybe more than the sixth spot.”

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban also blasted the format.

“In hindsight, this approach was an enormous mistake,” Cuban told ESPN.

Perhaps more important for Dallas is to figure out how to bounce back from a dismal loss to the 76ers in which it trailed by as many as 23 points.

“We’ve been through dips in the schedule before,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “Our group has shown that they have the ability to be very resilient, and so this is another opportunity to show that. We’ve got to drill down on the things that are really important to us heading into Wednesday.”

The contest against Memphis is Dallas’ only road contest during a nine-game stretch, but having lost successive home games they are just 13-12 at home this season.

The Grizzlies are 1-1 on a three-game homestand that is followed by seven straight road games.

Dallas won the season’s first meeting between the teams, 102-92 on Feb. 22 behind seven 3-pointers and 29 points from Tim Hardaway Jr. The Grizzlies were led by Morant with 22 points and nine assists.

The third and final meeting of the regular season is slated for May 11 at Memphis.

–Field Level Media

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