It’s the first Sunday of the NFL Playoffs, so obviously the only thing going on in Dallas is a matchup between the Knicks and Mavericks.
Yes, the Knicks have looked markedly better in 2014, but they aren’t going to make up any ground in the standings by dropping two out of three. A win in Dallas would go a long way towards winning the division, especially considering that Boston is playing in Oklahoma City, and the red-hot Raptors will tip-off in Miami tonight. It’s still relatively early, but the Knicks have dug themselves in to a hole, so opportunities like this can’t continue to be squandered.
The Mavericks are 19-14 and currently sit in the eighth spot in the deep Western Conference. They play much better at home (11-5) than they do on the road (8-9). As always, the Mavs are led by Dirk Nowitzki, who is still one of the most unique talents to ever play the game, despite experiencing “statistical dips” down to 21.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. The Knicks don’t really have anyone who can defend his style of play, but in their defense, neither do most NBA teams. At seven-feet tall, Dirk can easily shoot over most defenders, and throwing Tyson Chandler on him will do nothing but take New York’s best rim protector out of his domain.
The incapability to defend Dirk will make it that much more important to shut down the Dallas backcourt. That unit is led by Monta Ellis, who has finally added some efficiency to his game, and is averaging 20.2 points and 5.9 assists thus far. Iman Shumpert has been tremendous offensively over the last two games, but he’ll have to earn his paycheck on the defensive side of the floor in this one.
Although things have been clicking much better in the first two Texas games, I’d personally like to see this progress even further. As soon as Chandler returned from injury, Bargnani lost his aggression. As soon as Shump caught fire, J.R. Smith lost his. Maybe, for one night, the Knicks could have a well-rounded scoring sheet. Is this too much to ask for?