Pre-Game News and Notes
The Knicks will look to salvage the last game of the Texas Triangle road trip Sunday in
If not for poor decision making Friday night against the Rockets the Knicks
would be going for a sweep. The Mavericks, just like the Knicks, are coming off
a tough loss Friday night and will look to bounce back tonight with a strong
performance to get their home stand back on track. Here are some things to
watch for tonight when they tip-off.
-Players News and Notes
For the Knicks Raymond Felton is continuing to travel with the team but is unlikely to suit up. Felton is more likely to suit up Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons. Pablo Prigioni still has no timetable for his return and Metta World Peace will be sidelined for the foreseeable future. Kenyon Martin will be a game-time call because of the ankle injury that held him out of Friday night’s game.
For the Mavericks, Devin Harris is nearing a return but has no chance of playing tonight. He is aiming for a mid-January return to even start practicing. Dirk Nowitzki was a game-time decision Friday night but was able to suit up and play so he should be out on the court again tonight.
-Can Carmelo Get Healthy?
Anthony missed three games last week because of an ankle injury but returned Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs. Anthony made it through the game without any problems until the waning seconds when he was kicked by Manu Ginobili. Anthony toughed it out and played against the Rockets Friday but grimaced multiple times throughout the game.
Anthony dealing with any lingering ankle injuries will hamper not only his performance but the team’s as well. Anthony has shown a willingness to pass the ball recently and he needs to continue doing that but if he is injured he may be too concerned with staying healthy than doing what is right for the team on the court.
-Shumpert Has Turned the Corner
Iman Shumpert has been outstanding in the two games of the New Year and has looked to finally turn a corner for the season. Shumpert struggled at the end of December, shooting 6-42 at one point but has really got it going in the last two games. In the two games against the Spurs and Rockets, Shumpert has scored 53 points and shot 12-14 from the three point line; in the 12 games prior Shumpert managed to score only 42 points.
With Shumpert scoring and his confidence raising the Knicks look like a totally different team. When your shooting guard position is giving you no production it is hard to win games. Shumpert has begun playing extremely well and the Knicks have coincidentally played two of their best games of the season.
The Knicks guards will once again have their hands full on the defensive end of the court. The Mavericks have a dangerous backcourt in Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis. Calderon is one of the better floor generals in the NBA and has solved a lot of the problems the Mavericks have had in recent seasons at the point guard position. Ellis has been an outstanding signing by the Mavericks as well. He has added another scoring threat to a team void of any consistent scoring outside of Nowitzki and also another playmaker. Ellis actually leads the team in assists per game at 5.9.
It will be interesting to see who the Knicks match up with. Beno Udrih and Calderon are expected to be matched up together; both players are revolving doors so each team should be able to get into their offense relatively easily. Shumpert should draw Ellis, which will be an exciting matching to watch. This will be like guarding Harden for Shumpert as Ellis is a play making scorer, he just settles for more jump shots than Harden does. Toure’ Murry will also see time again as the backup guard and should be able to make things difficult for any of the guards the Mavericks deploy.
-Matchup of the Game: Dirk Nowitzki vs. Andrea Bargnani
Dirk Nowitzki is arguably the best international basketball player to grace an NBA court. When he was drafted, Bargnani was looked at as the next Nowitzki, just more polished and further advanced upon coming into the league. Tonight they will meet again but with a lot lower expectations.
Nowitzki is putting together yet another solid season, averaging 21.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Nowitzki is having a renaissance of sorts this season with the addition of Ellis, who is taking some of the scoring load off Nowitzki’s shoulders. In his career Nowitzki has played very well against the Knicks, averaging 24.8 points per game against the Knicks; he averages more points per game against only three more teams.
The man who will most likely be tasked with slowing down Nowitzki is Bargnani. Bargnani has shown surprisingly strong one-on-one defense but not many big many he is matched up with have the offensive skill set of Nowitzki. Bargnani will have his hands full on defense but has a chance to make life difficult for Nowitzki as well.
Bargnani has struggled recently with his shot, sapping his confidence at points in the game. But Bargnani has shown throughout the season he can have an outstanding offensive game without any signs of it. Hopefully for the Knicks tonight is one of those games as any scoring from Bargnani will be a boost in the last game of the road trip. If he can augment the scoring Anthony and Shumpert have been doing on the trip it will help a lot.