The Mavericks head to the Madison Square Garden tonight to face off against the New York Knicks in what should be the most interesting game of the young season. The surprising Mavericks (4-1) will be stepping on to the home court of the equally hot Knicks (3-0) with a number of interesting variables.
In a peculiar twist of fate, if Roddy Beaubois doesn’t play tonight the Knicks will have more of the NBA 2011 Champion Dallas Mavericks on the floor than Dallas does. NYC is of course, the new home of Jason Kidd who joined Tyson Chandler last summer. The Knicks also have Steve Novak who became the NBA’s best 3-point shooter after leaving Dallas.
The Knicks were thought to be taking a major downgrade when Jeremy Lin left and was replaced by the returning Raymond Felton but Felton has played surprisingly well, averaging 13.7 ppg and 6 apg. JKidd is starting alongside him and contributing 9.0 ppg, 3.7 apg and 3.7 rpg plus 2 steals. Kidd also has an impressive assist-to-turnover ration of 11.0. The ball is in good hands.
Felton and Kidd will be challenged by the young Mavs penetration and have to rely heavily on their interior defense, which is excellent. Jason Kidd has always been a great defender and while not as quick as he used to be, is still a solid team defender and one of the smartest basketball minds in the game. It will be up to Collison, Mayo & Co. to push them while Vince Carter should post up whenever possible. If the Mavs continue to hit from downtown, there is also little the Knicks can do to stop them and if Elton Brand and Troy Murphy can also start to connect from midrange and beyond it will make a big difference.
In a situation somewhat similar to the Mavericks, you would expect the Knicks to be less effective without Amar’e Stoudemire, who, like Dirk, is out with a knee injury for several weeks, as well as defensive stoppers Iman Shumpert and Marcus Camby. The Knicks are 3-0 anyway, and not only have they done it all against teams above .500, they have the highest point differential of any team in the league by almost double (a whopping 19.7 ppg to #2 Miami’s 10.2). Dallas is #3 at 8.8. The Knicks have won all three games by a huge margin and have the stingiest defense in the league, allowing only 85.3 points, while boasting the 3rd-best offense (104.7), all despite missing three important pieces.
As one might expect, Carmelo Anthony is leading the team at 26.7 ppg and the rest of the scoring is very balanced with Josh Smith chipping in 16 points off the bench.
The Knicks of course have last season’s Defensive Player of the Year in Tyson Chandler (sigh); yet last year when he sat on the bench the defense took a nosedive. One would have thought the same would be happening this year but as noted above, the Knicks have the allowed fewer points that any other team in the league. In addition, opponents are only shooting 40.7% against them, tied for second lowest in the NBA, all without “Shump” and Camby on the court. Camby is expected to return for the Mavs game Friday and that will only help the Knicks, who will now have Chandler backed up by another former Defensive Player of the Year. Keeping in mind that they have already beaten potent offensive teams in Miami and Philadelphia by substantial margins, the question for Rick Carlisle will be how to be effective.
The Mavs will have to perform well in several areas to succeed. The Knicks haven’t shown a lot of weaknesses as of yet and are also an excellent three-point shooting team. One opportunity for the Mavs is in an area they inexplicably have not shined this year (other than Bernard James) is on the boards. The Knicks are 20th in the league in rebounding, oddly led by Anthony with a handful of other players averaging 6-7 rpg. In theory the Mavs have a much stronger rebounding team but they have yet to show it and that is one area where they will need to assert themselves against an opponent who is paying both great defense and offense. Without Shawn Marion, that prospect seems a little more difficult although the Raptors game provides hope. In theory with a team that includes Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, Bernard James and Troy Murphy from the outset, dominating the glass shouldn’t be a problem so it’s up to these guys and Rick Carlisle to figure out why they’ve been inconsistent.
The Mavs will also need to stretch the floor and make use of the inside-outside game, especially if they have trouble with the Knicks’ pick-and-roll defense. Dirk’s game is an ideal answer to the way the Knicks play but without him, the responsibility falls onto the guards to penetrate and the bigs to hit from midrange in order to keep the Knicks off balance and of course, good ball movement to get around the defense.
While the Mavericks are playing very efficient basketball with 5 guys hovering around a PER of 20 or so, the Knicks are as well. Essentially this game is a matchup of two of the best teams in the NBA (so far) and should be an excellent game. The Mavericks will have to prove that they can be successful against teams with a winning records, in particular a team that has beaten two other good teams including the Miami Heat.
Game time is 6:30 CST from Madison Square Garden.
Topics: Brandan Wright, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Kaman, Dahntay Jones, Dallas, Dallas Mavericks, Darren Collison, Dirk Nowitzki, DirkNowitzki, Dominique Jones, Elton Brand, Jason Kidd, Madison Square Garden, Mavericks, Mavs, NBA, NBA. Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, Raymond Felton, Rebounds, Tyson Chandler, Vince Carter