Dallas took on the New York Knicks last night at the world-famous Madison Square Garden, with some familiar faces returning to the court both for Dallas and for the opposing team. Elton Brand was back after a one-game absence following the birth of his child, and Rodrigue Beaubois suited up after sitting out with a sprained ankle. Meanwhile, of course, Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd started for a Knicks team that seems to really love employing ex-Mavs(seriously; Steve Novak and Kurt Thomas also play for them now).
The first quarter started slow for Dallas, as a series of bizarre offensive miscues and defensive lapses that allowed easy baskets for the Knicks helped create an early deficit. Tyson Chandler appeared eager to remind Mavs fans of what they are missing by finishing monster dunk off an alley-oop on consecutive possessions. The Mavs, and a patriotic headband-wearing Vince Carter, did their best to keep it close with the outside shot, but it was clear right from the start that this would not be a cakewalk and that the Knicks were not going to lay down like previous opponents.
Early in the second quarter, it was the Knicks turn to shoot themselves in the collective foot, as Dallas managed to take the lead thanks to some sloppy play from the home team, even briefly stretching the advantage to 9 until Carmelo Anthony woke up and decided to take over. A furious finish to a quarter where both teams combined to score 64 points gave the impression that this might be a track meet.
In the third quarter, having seen their deficit dwindle to just a basket, the Knicks finally asserted themselves and retook the lead, one they would not relinquish the rest of the night. Anthony, who had 19 first half points, began the third with Dahntay Jones guarding him instead of rookie Jae Crowder, and though Jones did hold Carmelo to just three points in that period, New York dominated anyway thanks to nine points from the extremely tattooed J.R Smith.
In the fourth, Dallas simply couldn't get on track enough to mount a serious comeback. O.J Mayo cut it to four with a nice fast break layup off an Elton Brand outlet pass, but that would be as close as Dallas came, as Carmelo Anthony responded with a quick three and the Knicks pulled away for good by continuing to isolate Anthony against the eager but overmatched Jae Crowder.
The hot shooting for Dallas fizzled, as did their ability to limit turnovers, as 20 TO's led to 20 points off said TO's. That number was simply too large to overcome, and I am sure will be the subject of discussion for Rick Carlisle and his coaching staff.
- After the game Darren Collison was quoted as saying he took the blame for the loss. O.J Mayo stood up for him, saying that he, too, had to shoulder responsibility, but it was clearly not Collison's night, as he went 1-8 from the field and committed four turnovers. Mayo had eight, as the backcourt combined to account for more than half of the team's giveaways.
- Mayo also got in to foul trouble, and this seemed to derail both him and the Mavs as well. He was scorching hot in the beginning, starting 6-10, but picked up his fourth foul when Jason Kidd drew a charge, and had to check out midway through the third quarter. The Knicks had just taken the lead and they would not give it up the rest of the game. After returning, Mayo would go 1-6 in the final period, and had several turnovers to compound the ineffectiveness, as he seemed to press a little in an attempt to heroically lead Dallas back. We can't know if it was the time spent on the bench or the mounting deficit that took Juice out of his rhythm, but my subjective opinion is when Mayo tries to "take over" the wheels can kind of come off.
- Give credit where credit is due, though: Mayo played 10 amazing quarters in a row for Dallas, and overall it was his fourth straight 20-plus point night. On the year he is averaging a whopping seven threes attempted per game, and is shooting an otherworldy 60% from that range. During training cap I remember Mayo saying that while coach Carlisle asked him to spend extra time on his shot over the summer, and that it was the first time he had worked so hard on an aspect of his game that he was already good at, as he had usually tried to work to improve areas of weakness, instead of areas of strength. I will say that I am extremely pleased both with how well he's shot thus far, and more importantly, where the shots have come from. That the three point shot has been such a large part of his attack is a major step forward for Mayo.
- Speaking of being blazing hot...Chris Kaman. At this rate it's hard to imagine how Kaman won't at least post the best shooting numbers since his All-Star campaign in '08-'09, if not longer. He looks very at home in this offense, and has absolutely destroyed second unit centers to this point. Also, he is a very strange dude.
- allas managed to outrebound their opponent for the second straight game, and they tied the Knicks in points in the paint. Who is this team?!
- Dominique Jones was, curiously, the first "point guard" off the bench for Dallas, but Roddy checked in and played the bulk of the minutes at this spot, as DoJo would not see the court again until garbage time. It was not a spectacular game from Beaubois, but it was nice to see him back on the court, and he did have a couple of nice drives.
- I like Vince Carter, but I think a major addition for Dallas when Dirk returns will be that Carter won't have to have as large a role in this offense anymore. Carter started out last season well but really faded down the stretch due to fatigue, and I am very concerned where Carter will bottom out if a similar second-half fade occurs this season, given the spirited but not overwhelmingly efficient place he's already at. Given how well Kaman has shot the ball, you'd maybe like to see Carter give a few of his looks to Chris, who is my nominee for "bench ace".
- Dallas will get a second crack at the Knicks in less than two weeks time, so we'll see if revenge is on the menu. Dallas also gets a second look at the Bobcats tonight, who like Dallas is on the second night of a back-to-back.