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Mavericks vs. Knicks Preview: 3 things to watch as Dallas takes on New York

A banged-up Mavericks try to bounce back against a red-hot Knicks

New York Knicks v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Dallas will face another tough matchup of this home stretch when they welcome Jalen Brunson and the New York Knicks to Dallas on Thursday. The Knicks have won five straight including wins over the Timberwolves and the 76ers. Put another way, they’re undefeated in the OG Anunoby era.

Dallas is still struggling to get healthy. Just as Kyrie Irving returned to the floor, Dereck Lively went down again. Dante Exum is out with a foot injury, and Luka Doncic soldiers on, but was clearly hurting in the team’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies after Bismakc Biyombo fell on his right leg in the first quarter.

Dallas’ win over the Timberwolves was great, but a gutted out win against this hot (The Knicks have the league’s longest win streak), new-look Knicks squad might be even more so.

Shoot it if you got it

WIth the addition of Anunoby, New York has become one of the most fearsome defenses in the league. Over their current 5-game winning streak with Anunoby, the Knicks are holding opponents to the lowest shooting percentages in the league from both the restricted area AND the corner three. AKA, Dallas’ favorite shots. Uh oh.

Dallas is going to need their shooters to hit what open shots they can get since it doesn’t seem like there’s going to be many opportunities. It might also call for a good old-fashioned mid-range shooting gallery from Irving and Doncic, 90s basketball style. Whatever it is, hopefully Dallas can find a thread to pull on offensively to unravel the Knick’s stout defense.

Just like me for real

You’ll never guess what one of the biggest differentiators for a Knicks win versus a Knicks loss is. That’s right, it’s three point shooting.

“Make threes, win game” is a bit on the nose, but for the Knicks, the difference in their three-point shooting is quite pronounced in wins and losses. Dallas is no stranger to this as we just saw them shot themselves to a victory over the NBA’s best defense in Minnesota, and then turn around with an off night beyond the arc and get run out of their own building by the flailing Grizzlies.

In their wins this season, the Knicks shot a stunningly high 42% from deep – fourth-best in the league. In losses, that drops all the way to 35% – fourth-WORST in the league. A 10% swing that’s bigger than even the Mavericks’ whose streaky shooting varies 8% between wins and losses. Luka has been (deservedly) crowing about his defense this season, and this would be a huge “show me” opportunity against the hottest team in the league.

Derrick Jones Jr… NBA All Defensive player?

No, not yet, but a narrative has to start somewhere and I want to be on the tip of the wave if it happens. He’s undoubtedly having the best season of his career, averaging his first two double-doubles in his seven seasons and averaging 10+ points for the first time.

Offensively, there’s not much to dislike in DJJ’s game, but the defensive end is really where he could give Dallas a boost. With Lively and Dante Exum likely remaining on the bench, Jones Jr is as close to a defensive anchor as Dallas has - especially on the wing.

Still, his 7’0” wingspan gives him the ability to help against bigs, and he’s nimble enough to keep his feet moving against smaller players. Together with Josh Green and Luka, they’ll have to hold their own at the point of attack to prevent the Knicks from getting exactly what they want every trip down the floor.

How to watch

You can broadcast or stream the game on Bally Sports at 7:30 CST.