By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Mavericks | Madison Square Garden
When: Monday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (21-35): The Knicks return home from a road trip that included four games in five nights coming out of the All-Star break. They finsihed with a disappointing 1-3 record, despite holding 4th quarter leads in each game. On the trip, they lost Iman Shumpert to a sprained knee and were without the services of Kenyon Martin, who did not travel because of a sore ankle. Amar'e Stoudemire had to miss the New Orleans game -- the trip's only win -- because of soreness and it being a back-to-back. There were some standout performances from those who did play, led by Carmelo Anthony, who averaged 35.8 points in the four games and shot 44.8 percent from downtown.
Dallas (34-23): Fifty seven games into Dirk Nowitzki's 15th NBA season, the Mavericks are still a playoff team in the Western Conference; they feature the league's 4th best offense, scoring 110.6 points per 100 possessions. Dallas has done an exceptional job surrounding Nowitzki (21.8 points per game) with talented veterans like Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon and Vince Carter, but their success hinges on Dirk, the 35-year-old who just played in his 12th All-Star Game.
The Numbers Game
Nowitzki is threatening to further cement his status in the esteemed "50-40-90 Club" this season, a club that he and only five others in NBA history have joined by finishing a season shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the free throw line. The others are: Steve Nash (4x), Larry Bird (2x), Mark Price, Reggie Miller and Kevin Durant. This would be Dirk's second season doig it.
Also of note: His teammate, Calderon, technically reached 50-40-90 during the 2007-08 season, but his 109 free throw attempts were 16 below the amount needed to qualify.
Matchup to Watch
Pablo Prigioni vs. Monta Ellis
The Mavs stuck gold, relatively speaking, with their offseason signing of the high-scoring Ellis. Long known for his high volume shooting, he's had one of his most efficient seasons so far, making 45.8 of his field goal attempts and getting to the free throw line at a near-career-high level. He's been a great fit next to Nowitzki because of his slashing ability that takes attention awak from Dirk at the high post. After letting opposing guards get into the line too often on the road trip, Prigioni, Raymond Felton and the rest of the Knicks' perimeter defenders need to clamp down.
What to Look For
The Knicks have had a day to rest, but the toll of four games in five nights could become an issue against a deep Dallas team that can really score the ball. Anthony had logged big minutes (42 per game over the last four), so J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. will be asked to take some of the scoring load. Tyson Chandler pulled down 23 rebounds in Atlanta and played well during the road trip. He'll need to keep it up against his former team.