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Previewing Knicks at Mavericks: Can the Mavs find some defense?

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The Knicks are rebuilding and struggling early but the Mavericks are also starting to face their own demons. Dallas is looking to rebound after two poor performances.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks come into Wednesday's game having lost at Houston on Monday. Since starting the season with a 2-1 record, the Knicks have rattled off a string of losses and sit on a 4-11 record. New York was without former Maverick Jose Calderon for much of the early season who was out with a strained calf. In his absence, the Knicks turned to another former Mav in Shane Larkin to be their starting point guard. Calderon retuned from injury two games ago.

As you are probably aware, both Calderon and Larkin, as well as Samuel Dalembert, were sent to the Knicks over the summer in a trade that brought Tyson Chandler back to Dallas.

New York is in the midst of rebuilding. They brought in Derek Fisher to coach the team after retiring from playing after the end of last season. The team also brought in Phil Jackson to work his Zen in trying to right the Knicks' ship and install a triangle offense.

Early in the season, it is clear that this is a team that is looking towards the future rather than the present.  They are not a particularly good defensive unit. However, they do force a number turnovers. Those, though, do not negate allowing opponents to have an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 51.8. Nor do they factor in to sending their opponents parading to the charity stripe.

That said, the Knicks can score the ball. The team connects on 46.2 percent of their shot attempts. This is buoyed, though, by their league-best 3-point shooting percentage of 39.5. However, New York doesn't take many 3-point attempts, averaging only 18.1 attempts per game which ranks them 21st in the league.

All of the Knicks' foibles lend one to believe that New York will be easy prey for the Mavericks' top ranked offense. And, honestly, they very well may be. Yet, Dallas has plenty of flaws itself. These have been exposed in the Mavs' two last games, both losses, against the Rockets and Pacers.

Houston and Indiana exposed Dallas' weak perimeter defense. In those games, the Mavs allowed a combined 92 3-point attempts. While Houston only connected on 36.6 percent of their 3s, still a high mark, the Pacers landed 50 percent of their shots from behind the arc. Though I have not looked at specific stats, it seemed as though most of these shots came from the corners.

Both the Pacers and Rockets exploited the Mavericks' poor defensive rotations on the perimeter to find open shooters time and again. This has been a recurring theme in the young season for Dallas. The Mavs allow an average of 10 made 3-pointers per game which ranks last in the league. They also allow teams to take 25.7 3-pointers which ranks second to last in the Association. Those are bad numbers, to say the least. But, as stated earlier, the Knicks don't take many 3s.

If the Mavericks want to avoid another letdown against a bottom feeder, they need to rotate on defense better. Their man-to-man defense has been, well, not bad but too often the team is relying on Tyson Chandler to bail them out. Unfortunately, there's nothing he can really do to stop perimeter shots unless he wants to leave the lane as open as a Walmart on Black Friday.

This game will be an opportunity for Dallas to rebound and get their offense going again. The offense will need to get back to its fluid pick-and-roll self and the scoring will need to be balanced. It would also behoove the Mavs to get out to a big lead early and hold it. It's rude to ruin the return of some former players but that's exactly what the Mavs need to do. Besides, with all the animosity that was directed towards Chandler when he left New York, you would think that he, and his teammates, would want to send a message.

Injuries

This could be the game that Raymond Felton returns to action. It would be fitting to do so against his former team. However, his return may have hit a snag:

His game time status, at the time of this writing, is uncertain.

The Mavericks may just dodge a bullet during the game. It appears that the Knicks' All Star forward Carmelo Anthony may miss tonight's game.

Game Info

Time: 6:30pm Central

TV: ESPN, FSSW, MSG