Here we go again.
This game marks Jason Kidd's first trip back to Dallas since spurning Mark Cuban and company to join New York in its quest for a title.
The contest is also what Dallas hopes will be a return to winning. Since beginning the season 4-1, the Mavericks have lost five of their last seven and find themselves fighting to remain around .500.
Eclipsing the .500 mark won't be an easy feat against the Knicks, however. With the exception of New York's disappointing performance against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Knicks have been on point, and are riding the high that was their blowout victory over the New Orleans Hornets Tuesday night.
Dirk Nowitzki is nowhere to be found, but there is no shortage of intrigue here, as both teams will look to assert their dominance over the other in what should be a very physical battle from beginning to end.
Time: Wednesday, November 21st, 8:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBA League Pass
Records: Dallas Mavericks (6-6), New York Knicks (8-1)
Betting Line: Knicks -3
Injuries (via CBSSports.com)
Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki (knee, out).
Knicks: Iman Shumpert (knee, out); Amar'e Stoudemire (knee, out).
Key Storyline: Are the Knicks on-the-road real?
We get it, the Knicks are not a mirage—they're for real.
That said, are they on-the-road real?
We've watched as New York has held its homecourt, beaten the teams it should and some of the ones it wasn't supposed to. We also saw how back-to-back road games affected their energy level against the Memphis Grizzlies merely days ago.
Obviously, the Hornets are not the San Antonio Spurs, nor are the Nowitzki-less Mavericks the Grizzlies. And yes, it is encouraging that the Knicks were able to rest all their starters, save for Jason Kidd, for the entire fourth quarter in New Orleans.
Still, Dallas is not to be taken lightly. Not only is this a hungry team, but it's an emotional one, determined to prove it can continue to win in Nowitzki's absence.
Again, no one's denying the Knicks are for real, but they've still got plenty to prove.
Some of which can be proven against the Mavericks Wednesday night.
Key Matchup: Elton Brand/Shawn Marion, F, Mavericks vs. Carmelo Anthony, SF, Knicks
Anthony is going to have his hands full in this one.
Not only will he be forced to defend Brand, another gritty power forward who likes to bang in the post, but offensively, he'll be facing some schemes he didn't see from Dallas the first time around.
Back in New York, the Mavericks were without their best defender in Marion. Though it's unlikely he defends 'Melo on his own all night, he will be tasked with providing a lot of help defense.
Anthony will essentially be going up against two defenders at any given point, one a big body in Brand and the other a savvy defensive specialist in Marion.
How 'Melo fairs against such tactics will go a long way in determining which team emerges the victor of this contest.
Mayo is Dallas' leading scorer, the same one who torched the Knicks for 23 points in the first matchup. He'll need to have another huge night if the Mavericks' fourth ranked offense wants to overcome New York's top ranked defense.
The sharp-shooting guard will also be asked to help out against Anthony defensively, because let's face it, Marion and Brand may not be enough.
Mayo will be matched up against Jason Kidd to start, so he'll be asked to gravitate towards the ball with the expectation he can react in time to contest any looks his man will get.
It won't be easy, but if Mayo can put forth a two-way performance similar to his showing in the overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors, Dallas won't find this one out of reach.
The Knicks will not only ask Brewer to help contain Mayo, but he'll also be expected to continue his offensive tear.
Brewer is shooting 41.7 percent from beyond the arc this season, but is at 25.8 percent for his career. With Marion placing an increased focused on helping Brand contain 'Melo, New York's defensively oriented shooting guard is liable to receive a bevy of open looks from behind the rainbow.
If he can continue to knock those looks down at a high rate, it will force Marion and company to respect the perimeter, opening things up for Anthony on the block.
And should he be able to do that, the Knicks won't be far from snagging their ninth victory in 10 games.
Jae Crowder, SF, Mavericks
Even with Marion back in the fold for this one, Crowder should see some serious minutes. And Dallas needs him to make the most of them.
New York has one of the early leading candidates for Sixth Man of the Year in J.R. Smith and the last thing the Mavericks want is to see their second-unit blown out of the water.
The Mavericks need Crowder to come off the bench and provide that offensive spark they often lose when Mayo or Darren Collison take a breather.
Yes, Dallas' bench is putting up 39.8 points per game thus far—fifth-most in the league—but against an equally potent second-tier of New York athletes, it needs its scorers to step up.
Crowder has yet to do that consistently, but if he can have one of those nights where he broaches his ceiling of potential, the Mavericks have a decent chance at holding their homecourt.
J.R. Smith, SG, Knicks
Speaking of Smith, this is no time for the wing who is currently playing out of his mind to cool off.
As previously noted, the Knicks' second-unit will be facing the NBA's fifth-most potent bench in the league. It's a bench that isn't deep with volume scorers, but instead players who spread the ball and make the most of open opportunities.
Smith, in turn, must continue his incredible play on both ends of the floor. He's averaging 16.1 points per game, which New York needs, but he's also emerged as one of their most tenacious defenders, a side of him the Knicks also need to see.
Many of us are still expecting the efficient version of Smith to come back to earth eventually. Whether or not he ever does, however, is irrelevant.
Unless he falls off the efficiency wagon in this one.
Prediction: Knicks 107, Mavericks 99
New York is going to thank its lucky stars it was able to rest the majority of its starting five in Tuesday's fourth quarter.
The potential pitfalls of playing back-to-back road games cannot be stressed enough, but the Knicks' relatively easy win in New Orleans was the perfect remedy to combat such a situation.
Unlike their game against the Grizzlies, the Knicks won't be completely spent from the night before. They'll come out of the tunnel gunning and their wealth of shooters should have no trouble capitalizing off the double and triple-teams Anthony will receive.
Don't expect the Mavericks to stand aside without a fight, though. They have a bad taste in their mouth from the first meeting where New York's 10-point victory did not adequately do justice to how close the game really was.
Mayo should have no trouble using his size and athletic ability to exploit the defensive stylings of Kidd, Brewer or Smith, and Darren Collison should be able to wear Raymond Felton out on the defensive end as well.
In spite of a valiant effort, though, the Mavericks are poised to come up short once again.
Marion is back in the fold, which is huge, but the team is visibly struggling down the stretch of close games and has most recently allowed inferior opponents like the Indiana Pacers to get the best of them.
Even after another road win, I'm not so sure we'll be able to consider the Knicks road warriors.
That said, you'll be hard-pressed to find any remaining critics after New York claws its way to yet another victory.
All stats in this article are accurate as of November 21st, 2012.
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