Tonight’s matchup features two teams that have had a very similar last few days, right down to the final second of last night. Both have been hot of late, both are playing a back-to-back and third in four nights, and both played tough road games last night against Western Conference teams scrapping to make the playoffs without their best player, and blew double-digit leads in the fourth quarter.
The difference? Melo’s went in – Dirk’s didn’t.
Dallas has had a bit of a makeover of late, inserting Peja Stojakovic and Roddy Beaubois into the starting lineup, but they haven’t missed a beat. They’re 19-3 since January 22, with all three losses coming by just one point. They have lost two out of three, however, and they’re an older team with a late flight back home last night – maybe the Knicks are catching them at the right time.
PG – Jason Kidd: Shooting numbers are significantly worse on back-to-backs; also coming off an 0-7 FG performance last night.
SG – Beaubois: Has played ten games since returning from a broken foot; he isn’t filling up the box score but looks as athletic as ever. He would put a bell on Toney Douglas while Kidd checks Landry Fields.
SF – Stojakovic: Was inactive last night, but it was for a stiff neck, so I’m assuming he shakes that off to get out there tonight, especially with Shawn Marion questionable with injured ribs. Has started all 13 games with Dallas, but is only averaged 21 minutes. Shooting a career-low 31% 3PT.
PF – Dirk Nowitzki: With whom you’re familiar.
C – Tyson Chandler: Made his return last night after missing three games with an ankle injury. Dropped 16 and 13 on the Hornets in 25 minutes last night.
Statistician Trivia: Last night, Mike Breen mentioned an interesting discrepancy between college and pro basketball: in college, a five-second inbounds violation occurs when the inbounds pass is not touched by its receiver (or a defender) within the allotted five seconds, whereas in the NBA the passer needs only to release the ball within five seconds. So, your question: when a five-second violation occurs on either level, how do you score it?
Your Chauncey Billups and Co. Update: As Mike noted this morning, today’s news is that not only is Chauncey still feeling pain in his thigh, but his knee has also begun to swell over the course of treatment. Mike D’Antoni did say yesterday that Billups would be a definite for Sunday against Indiana, but he remains questionable (read: doubtful) for tonight. Bull Walker was active last night but didn’t play, and it’s unclear if he’s still battling his sore knee or if his role has simply been usurped by Roger Mason. Ronny Turiaf looked spry in minutes last night, and should be fine going forward until he gets hurt again next week and we start the cycle over again.
When the Going Gets Tough: Last night, while Melo was playing hero, the Mavs were busy blowing a lead of their own, being outscored by 11 in the fourth quarter and allowing the final eight points in a 93-92 loss to New Orleans. Perhaps most egregious amidst the collapse was Kidd’s foul on Jarrett Jack’s three-point try with seconds remaining – the ensuing free throws swung the game for the Hornets – and their allowing Marco Belinelli to score 21 points in a league-sanctioned game.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle called his team “soft” in the closing moments and said, “We just got to be tougher.” Chandler and Jason Terry are none too thrilled. The Dallas Morning News is also on the case with this follow-up.
Mavs Rotation: If you’re wondering about former Knick great Corey Brewer, he’s been getting spot duty since joining Dallas but did not enter last night’s game. As mentioned above, Marion is questionable tonight, and nobody’s mistaking Peja for a Melo-stopper, so Brewer may get an extended call.
Elsewhere, the Mavs are one of the deepest teams in the league: Terry doesn’t start but usually finishes, DeShawn Stevenson had established himself as the starting two-guard before Beaubois came back. Brendan Haywood will take a few laps around the court as well. And somehow, although it’s mostly due to injuries now, Brian Cardinal still gets minutes on this really, really good team.
A Leftover Nugget: Forgot to mention in last night’s recap that the Knicks allowed just five offensive boards in Memphis, two nights after giving 22 o-rebs to Utah. Obviously, that’s a great number. The Knicks are currently 28th in the league with 12 offensive rebounds allowed per game, and tied for 23rd in the league with a defensive rebound rate of 72%. Dallas is tied for 28th in the league, ripping down just 23.4% of their missed shots.
Statistician Trivia: A five-second violation is actually a team turnover, not a turnover to the inbounds passer. A scorer may charge a turnover if he feels one player was especially responsible for the violation. Interestingly, the same logic (and accompanying wiggle room) applies to both ten/eight-second half court violations and shot clock violations.
I’m interested to see if Mike D’Antoni starts Fields on Kidd and Douglas on Beaubois. D’Antoni will be aware of Kidd’s poor shooting last night and in back-to-backs and may be keen to let the future HOF-er prove he can stroke it before he puts his best perimeter guy on him. Meanwhile, Douglas would be tasked with keeping Beaubois out of the paint, which keeps our bigs in good box-out position, etc. You know the drill.
The Knicks will be riding a wave of good vibes into Dallas for this one, and rightfully so. I was one of the detractors of the Melo trade, but say this for him: a few weeks ago, a win in Dallas would have seemed a bridge too far. Now, it looks like anything is possible. That may be more perception than reality, but even perception has its value now and then.
Enjoy the game, enjoy the national spotlight, and I’ll have the recap for you in the wee hours of tomorrow.