Where has this been for the last two weeks? The Knicks have had a ton of success going small with Carmelo Anthony at the 4 this season. On Wednesday, the Mavs answered their move by (eventually) going even smaller and the result was a thrilling, back-and-forth shootout that came down to the final shot.
While the offensive explosion will get most of the headlines, the real story of this game was the play of Shawn Marion at the defensive end. His individual defense on Carmelo in the second half allowed the Mavs to stay at home on the Knicks shooters. That's what New York's offense is designed to do: either get Carmelo a 1-on-1 shot or kick to the open shooter. Playing primarily against Marion, Melo had 23 points on 7-16 shooting, including a brutal last possession where Marion forced him into a nearly impossible double-clutch fade-away with less than 5 seconds left.
New York was down 112-111 with :24 seconds left and their offense had been nearly unstoppable all night, yet they ended the game on a terrible isolation shot from Melo. While "hero ball" can work sometimes, when your best player has such a tough individual matchup, that's a great time to actually, you know, run a play. Especially considering how wide-open the lane was for the Knicks all night: in the fourth quarter, any Knick (Felton, Melo, Chandler) who got a shot at the rim was getting an and-1.
Maybe Dallas could use a big man who could play above the rim? Brandan Wright and Bernard James were chained to the bench, while Chris Kaman, Elton Brand and Troy Murphy, proved, if you had any doubt, that they are old, slow and can't move their feet to save their lives.
For example, in a game against a New York team who plays only one big man, why even have Murphy on the floor if all he's going to do is be a shooter? Why not play Jae Crowder? He's more athletic, more active and (at this point in their careers) a better shooter too. In the second half, with Crowder taking Murphy's spot on the floor, the rookie had 12 points on 4-6 shooting while also throwing in 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal.
Tyson Chandler continued to haunt his old team, as he put in a sterling all-around performance at the 5: 21 points and 13 rebounds on 8-9 shooting while shutting down the paint all night. This is a max player. I've been saying this for awhile, but letting him walk will go down as possibly the worst decision in Mavs history when it's all said and done.
What makes the Mavs offensive performance so incredible was that they were getting almost all of their points from the perimeter. OJ the Juiceman, Vinsanity and Crowder combined to go 11-22 on three-pointers. I don't know how sustainable that percentage is, particularly from Carter, but at least for one night, there was (Matt Pinto voice) a bucket at the end of that rainbow!
The Knicks were just as hot from deep, although many of there's came off dribble penetration and double teams in the lane. Jason Kidd has found new life in New York playing off the ball: he poured in 17 points on 5-8 shooting with 6 rebounds and 5 assists against his old team. He's very dangerous when he's spotting up off the ball, which is a more natural fit for him, at his advanced age, than running point for 30+ minutes a night.
The new Dallas PG, Darren Collison, appeared to have awakened from whatever slumber he's been in for most of the last 2-3 weeks. Perhaps it was the sight of the still slightly corpulent Ray Felton, as Collison scored 19 points on 7-11 shooting while adding in 7 assists on 3 turnovers.
New York has a very dangerous bench with Junior Smith, who (for the most part) played under control and Sheed Wallace, who has been re-born as a back-up 5. He's better than any of the Mavs big men, that's for sure. When Amare gets back, this is where he should go, as the second unit big man/scorer. The Knicks floor spacing around Carmelo is just too important for the success of their team to play him 35+ minutes a night anymore.
The Big Picture:
The Mavs had probably their best performance of the season and got a badly needed win to go to 7-6 before the teeth of a tough schedule begins. The Lakers come to town on Saturday, which means that most of what worked tonight (going small) won't, since LA is the biggest team in the league upfront. I'd like to put Wright's stat-line from the Mavs Opening Night win on the record right now: 20 minutes, 14 points on 5-5 shooting, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks. Nope, that's nothing this team needs. Anyway, it will be fun to see Dwight, Kobe and Gasol in person and running D'Antoni's offense, even if Nash is still out.