The New York Knicks hope to return to .500 as they take on the Dallas Mavericks tonight at Madison Square Garden. This is the first of two matchups between these two teams.
The Knicks are coming off a disappointing 106-91 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee that took place on Saturday night. Throughout the first half New York looked sluggish on both ends of the court and were unable to find their rhythm. Despite the rough start, they were able to keep the game close trailing by only four at halftime. The third quarter, however, was the turning point in this game and downfall of the Knickerbockers. Milwaukee would go on a 19-2 run and led by as many 21 points. The one bright spot for New York was the play of the second unit as they cut the lead to nine late in the quarter but were unable to get closer in the final period. Defense as well as turnovers were both issues as they would allow the Bucks to score 60 points in the paint, five players score in double figures and turned the ball over 15 times.
Derek Fisher spoke to the media after the game saying, "they had more energy than us and brought the game to us really right from the start."
As for the Dallas, they are coming off an impressive road win last night in Washington defeating the Washington Wizards, 116-104. They trailed by as many as 10 points in the second quarter but would cut the lead to three at halftime. The Mavs then took the lead early in the third quarter and would pull away from there. Wes Matthews had a big time performance scoring a season-high 36 points on 12-of-23 shooting, 28 of his 36 points came in the second half alone. He also tied a Mavericks franchise record with 10 made three-pointers. Dirk Nowitzki also had a solid game notching 19 points and grabbed six rebounds. Raymond Felton, the former New York Knick, also added 11 points, snatched 10 rebounds and dished out six assists. The Mavs had six players score in double figures and caught fire from downtown shooting 16-of-31 from behind the arc.
For this matchup, the Knicks will need to step up on the defensive end. Dallas is a dangerous offensive team that has the ability to get hot from the perimeter and can attack the basket as well. Deron Williams does a good job in both of these areas averaging 15 points per game and does a good job of getting his teammates involved averaging six assists a game. Jose Calderon, who has been much better defensively of late, will need to continue this and keep Williams from getting to the rim.
Another player New York will need to pay attention to is Zaza Pachulia. He is a crafty finisher around the basket and is a beast on the boards as well, averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds a game. He's tied for second with Russell Westbrook for most double-doubles this season with 12. Robin Lopez and the rest of the Knicks bigs will need to keep Pachulia away from the basket and keep him off the boards, especially on the offensive glass. Giving Dallas too many second chance opportunities will make it difficult for the Knicks to win this game.
On the offensive side of the floor, New York will need to continue to move the ball and knock down open shots. In the game on Saturday, New York had a hard time hitting shots, especially from the outside as they shot a woeful 24 percent from the three-point line and 42 percent from the field. They will also need to play with better energy this time around. Playing in front of the Garden crowd should give the Knicks a much needed boost in this aspect of the game.
An intriguing matchup to watch in this game will be Dirk Nowitzki against Kristaps Porzingis. They both have a similar style of play; each has the ability to play with their back to the basket, a mid-range game and can shoot from the outside as well. Back in November, Nowitzki spoke very highly of Porzingis, saying, "He looks great. He's long, he's athletic. He's a lot tougher than people think. And I think the sky is the limit if he keeps working and stays injury-free. He's gonna have a heck of a career." Many, if not all, Knick fans should be very excited about hearing such high praise coming from arguably one of the best players in the game.
Injury updates: Chandler Parsons, who did not play last night, is expected to play in this game.
Devin Harris injured his rib, is listed as day-day and the Mavs will announce sometime Monday his status for the game.
J.J. Barea, who's been dealing with an ankle injury, could return for this game.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 PM EST.