Written by William Lee
Sunday night was the final step of the Texas Triangle, and after another costly mental error by the New York Knicks Friday night, they looked to put that behind them, and end the trip on a positive note against the Dallas Mavericks. Tyson Chandler received a nice loud ovation from Dallas fans for his contribution to the Mavericks 2011 championship run. Although Chandler’s night would be a short one, he left the game four minutes into the game. Per the New York Knicks, Chandler was held out of the game due to an upper respiratory infection.
Carmelo Anthony scored on a turnaround jumper seconds into the game, it would be the beginning of a great all around first quarter. Anthony was responsible for 21 of the 29 Knicks’ points scored in the first quarter. Dallas had no answers for Anthony, watching him score 15 points as well as getting his teammates involved with 3 assist, and grabbing four rebounds. The Mavericks had an early 10-6 lead, which prompted Mike Woodson to call a timeout. New York went on an 18-3 run after the timeout to take a double digit lead. The Mavericks were held scoreless for over three minutes during the stretch. The lead would grow to as much as 19 mid-way into the second quarter, with the score 44-28, in favor of the Knicks.
Dallas was held to 36.1% shooting in the first half, there was very little ball movement, as evident by recording only three assist for the half. New York on the other hand was passing the ball well, getting 13 assist on 22 made field goals in the first half, on their way to a 52-35 advantage at the half. Andrea Bargnani and Amare Stoudemire both contributed seven points in the second quarter to help the Knicks increase their lead. Dirk Nowitzki was the only player for the Mavericks keeping them in the game, with 11 points in the first half. Things were going so bad for the Mavericks, that Nowitzki, who is a career 87.8% free throw shooter, uncharacteristically missed two straight to end the first half. Dallas really shot themselves in the foot missing almost half of their free throws in the first half. The Mavericks are the third best free throw shooting team in the league at an 80.3% clip, but only converted on 9/17 free throws for the first half. The misses from the charity stripe would haunt Dallas, as they were losing 52-35 at the half.
The Mavericks were able to trim the lead to ten by the end of the third quarter, on a 16-8 run. DeJuan Blair was the catalyst for Dallas, scoring in the paint, going a perfect from the field for 8 points. The Mavericks increased their defensive intensity after the first half, and took the ball out of the Knicks’ playmakers hands. The ball ended up in Kenyon Martin’s hand a lot, and he made Dallas pay, going a perfect 5/5 from the field for ten points. Martin finished the game with 14 points, and had the best +/- for the game with +15. It is impossible to stop Dirk Nowitzki, but Martin made it difficult for Nowitzki, forcing him to make tough shots.
It looked like it would be another Knicks collapse after a three made by Vince Carter early in the fourth quarter. The three trimmed the lead to six with 10:56 left in the fourth quarter, 68-62. Both teams would go back and forth, Dallas would again trim the lead to six after a Monta Ellis scored on a floater with 1:33 remaining in the game. The Mavericks would put on a full court press, and a trapped J.R. Smith would be forced to call a 20 second timeout. Dallas played great defense and New York was again unable to get the ball inbound. Mike Woodson called another timeout, and it helped advance the ball into the frontcourt. Iman Shumpert, who has had two spectacular games during the Texas road trip, was quiet throughout the night, but came up big after the timeout, knocking down a clutch three to put the Knicks ahead by double digits once again 87-78, with 1:13 remaining in the game. Shumpert would also seal the game at the line, as the Knicks won 92-80.
New York has played great basketball since the calendar has flipped to 2014. Winning two out of three games from the Texas Triangle has to be considered a major success, even though it could have been a sweep, if J.R. Smith didn’t commit the mental error in Houston. If the Knicks can continue to play this well, there is no reason New York cannot be a playoff team in the lowly Eastern Conference. New York will need Tyson Chandler to return to action quickly, the Knicks are not built to withstand his absence.