Monday's playoff-clinching win against the Phoenix Suns was a whirlwind to experience, but all it meant was death by Spurs if the Grizzlies couldn't pull through tonight against the Dallas Mavericks. For some (myself included), the stakes were higher. It's almost fitting that this game was even wilder. It was the last game of the regular season, the FedExForum was booming, and it came against both a division AND playoff-seeding rival. Maybe it was fated to be decided in the closing seconds of an overtime period.

Things looked great in the first quarter. While the ever-uncontainable Dirk Nowitzki got rolling quickly, the lights-out offense the Mavericks were known for looked a bit subdued in comparison to what they allowed to the Grizzlies. To match that crazy offense of theirs, the Mavs have an infamous defense that was crazy in the other way and it showed. They were beat up in the paint, forced to foul incessantly, and struggled to stay on stationary spot-up shooters through the damage being done in the post. Samuel Dalembert somehow racked up two turnovers and two personal fouls in six minutes, which was fun. I don't think there was a single particular Grizzly that struggled on offense in that quarter.

The Mavericks aren't a bad team however, and it showed as they fought their way back into the game in a jiffy. Devin Harris and (of course) Nowitzki powered the team right back into it, and they got nice contributions from the entire team Meanwhile, the Grizzlies fell into a bit of a slump. Zach Randolph really struggled in the second quarter despite playing it all the way through (DeJuan Blair had stretches of great defense against him), and Mike Miller's shot wasn't quite right.

The worst part of it is was that the Grizzlies really couldn't find a defensive match for Nowitzki. They tried Ed Davis, who is gifted with size, length and mobility, but little errors in his defensive technique (following each dribble move from the outside, sometimes allowing just a bit too much space) to stop Dirk's impeccable shot-making ability. Tayshaun Prince and Marc Gasol had more success later on, but the ripple effect of putting Big Spain on Dirk was that it took him away from protecting the paint, something we've seen happen before against such players as Kevin Love. Once again, no James Johnson. Do I sound like a broken record?

The rest of regulation was really tight, and I don't think either team built a lead greater than six points. What looked most successful for the Grizzlies was the Conley/Gasol pick-and-roll, which really opened the floodgates on the Mavs' weakest defenders. Conley was decisive and aggressive coming around the screen, and Gasol did a good job of finishing plays as the roll man. Z-Bo fared much better in the second half, grinding for an insane nine offensive rebounds in the game (out of 14 total boards) and continuing to mix it up in the post as he always does.