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5 big-time developments from the Mavericks’ big-time win over the New York Knicks, 128-124

Face it. At this point in the season, the Mavs might just be good.

New York Knicks v Dallas Mavericks
Kyrie Irving #11 of the Dallas Mavericks passes the ball against Donte DiVincenzo #0 of the New York Knicks in the first half at American Airlines Center on January 11, 2024 in Dallas, Texas.
Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images

The Mavericks (23-16) punched first and the New York Knicks (22-16) waited far too long to punch back Thursday as Dallas held off a valiant New York comeback attempt, 128-124, at the American Airlines Center.

Without superstar Luka Dončić, who sat with an ankle injury, primary playmaking duties fell to Kyrie Irving, and he did not disappoint. Irving finished with a season-high 44 points and 10 assists in the win. The man was silky smooth, shooting 15-of-26 from the field and 6-of-10 from 3-point territory.

The loss broke a five-game win streak for the Knicks, who had not taken an “L” since completing the trade with the Toronto Raptors to bring OG Anunoby to town. Anunoby finished with 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks against the Mavs. The Knicks were led by Julius Randle, who finished with 32 points, six rebounds and five assists.

The Mavs had an answer for every Knicks run in the second half and were able to keep New York at arm’s length on the strength of great shooting from Irving and Tim Hardaway Jr. for most of the game. Hardaway had one of his biggest games of the year when the Mavs needed it most, scoring 32 points and grabbing six rebounds in the win.

“Running and gunning,” Tim Hardaway said in his postgame interview. “I just wanted to make sure that when we got the ball, we kept pushing the pace. That we stay poised, stay together.”

One of the most impressive parts of the win against New York is that it was never really in any serious doubt. Until it was.

Jalen Brunson tried to key one last comeback attempt with four minutes to play. His layup, followed by a put-back dunk from center Isaiah Hartenstein with 3:20 left to play, brought the Knicks to within eight, down just 117-109. Brunson’s contested corner 3-pointer with two minutes to play made it 119-114, forcing Mavs fans everywhere to start biting their fingernails. Brunson finished with 30 points and eight assists in the loss.

After a series of missed 3-point attempts and lucky bounces that turned into offensive rebounds, Irving found Josh Green wide open for a 3-pointer along the wing that put Dallas in front 124-120 with 25 seconds left. The Knicks tried to force the ball out of Irving’s hands as much as possible with double teams as the game wore on.

Best first quarter of the year

The 44 points the Mavs scored Thursday against the Knicks in the first quarter were the most the Mavericks have scored in the first this year. When Tim Hardaway Jr.’s buzzer-beating 29-foot 3-pointer ripped clean through the net, the Mavericks had built an 18-point lead to turn the tables on the visiting Knicks, who came into the American Airlines favored by three and a half points.

The Mavs came into the game 16-5 when Hardaway makes three 3-pointers. The buzzer-beater in the first was Hardaway’s third make in his four first-quarter 3-point attempts. With the 44 points in the first quarter, the Mavs also tied the Sacramento Kings and the Indiana Pacers atop the NBA with 11 40-point quarters so far this season.

But it wasn’t just the best quarter the Mavs have played this season from a sheer production standpoint. It was smooth. It was efficient. It was quick and decisive.

Irving scored eight quick points in the first four minutes to set the tone for Dallas. Green stepped up for 11 points in the quarter as well, which now marks the highest-scoring first quarter in Green’s young career.

A 13-3 Mavs run that extended the lead late in the first was keyed by the accelerated pace of Green and Irving as well as timely shooting from Hardaway and Grant Williams.

Kyrie Irving: Big game hunter

All eyes were on Irving going into the matchup with New York. He was aggressive with the ball in his hands to open both halves. He scored the Mavs’ first eight points in the first quarter and got the first basket of the second half on a fadeaway bank shot to put Dallas up 76-55 at the time.

he instinctually sniffed out the opportune moments to rise up on one of his patented pull-up jumpers, when it was time to weave through four defenders on his own to create some much-needed offense and where the open man was. He kept his third eye open all night long in search of the open man and ended the night with 10 assists.

His stare-down corner 3-pointer late in the third over Miles McBride gave him 38 points for the game and gave the Mavs a 98-84 lead, as Dallas struggled to keep New York at arm’s reach at times in the second half. He found Green wide open out of a double team with 25.9 seconds for the biggest 3-pointer of the game.

Randle comes alive

Knicks forward Julius Randle singlehandedly kept New York in the game throughout the third quarter. The rangy big man with ties to Dallas of his own scored 18 of his team-high 32 points in the third quarter. His fadeaway 3-pointer in the corner with 5:22 left in the third and a hand in his face brought the Knicks to within six, down just 88-82 at the time.

New York Knicks v Dallas Mavericks
Julius Randle #30 of the New York Knicks shoots the ball against Dwight Powell #7 of the Dallas Mavericks in the first half at American Airlines Center on January 11, 2024 in Dallas, Texas.
Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images

This was all happening while the Mavericks suddenly went cold from 3-point range. After starting the game 10-for-20 from deep, Dallas hit just two of its first eight 3-point attempts in the third quarter. Irving hit the bullseye on one from the wing with 3:22 left in the third to stop the bleeding and give the Mavs a lift with a 95-84 lead.

Even when Randle was at his most brilliant, Irving’s offensive explosion more than kept pace for the Mavericks. Irving scored 20 of his game-high 42 in the third.

Josh Green coming along

Green’s 11 points as Irving’s running mate in the first quarter was a moment of brilliance we hope Green can channel more often in the coming months. But he didn’t force the issue the rest of the game. He was opportunistic on offense when points were there to be had, but he was content to be mostly helpful on the defensive end for much of the rest of the night.

Green scored his first bucket since the 3:06 mark of the first quarter came midway through the third when he knifed through the Knicks defense for a finger roll that put the Mavs up 88-74 at the time.

Then he hit the biggest 3-pointer of the game with 25.9 seconds left to help preserve the win for the Mavs. Green finished with an impressive 18 points in the win.

Now with more Grant Williams!

While Irving played hero in this one, the win over the Knicks came with reverberations throughout the entire Mavs lineup. Even Williams made his presence felt in the win, scoring 11 points and grabbing six boards while taking a big charge along the way on the defensive end.

If Williams begins to resemble anything close to a usable piece the rest of the season, that would be a major win for the Mavericks.