Practice Report: Dirk Nowitzki

Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki dishes on how much he loves to play at Madison Square Garden, how important it is to play hard for all four quarters and more.

The Mavs are already looking for their third season sweep against an East team this season. After taking care of business against the Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas is already playing its second and final game against the New York Knicks this season. The old adage goes it’s difficult to beat a team twice in a row, and that could very well hold true tonight.

It’s likely that Chandler Parsons will suit up for the Mavs tonight after missing Saturday’s loss to Golden State. The offense missed Parsons’s playmaking and shooting ability, and it would be really good to have him back. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing — once you’ve already played a team once, they know everything about you, so you need all hands on deck to get another W.

With another game tomorrow night in Detroit, look for the Mavs to make a move early in the game in an effort to put the contest out of question. Last time these two teams played, the Knicks kept sticking around and forced overtime before Dallas finally pulled away. The Mavs can’t afford for that to be the case again this evening, as every extra minute Dirk Nowitzki & Co. play could impact them tomorrow.

OFFENSE
Mavs Offense Knicks Defense
Points/100 poss. 113.4 (1) 107.1 (26)
eFG% 53.3 (3) 50.6 (20)
TOV% 12.2 (3) 15.6 (13)
Off/Def Reb% 26.5 (T-11) 70.9 (30)
FT/FGA .270 (20) .330 (28)

The Knicks are just 5-21 and have lost 11 of 12 games, but don’t let the record deceive you. Just within the last week-plus, the Knicks have lost to Cleveland by 3, to the Blazers by 4, and the Raptors by 5 in overtime. Don’t forget, either, that New York pushed Dallas to overtime on the road just two nights after losing to the Rockets by only 5 points in Houston. This team is completely capable of keeping games close.

Fortunately for the Mavs, the Knicks do not have the same caliber defense as Golden State and Memphis, the last two teams Dallas has lost to. The Knicks rank near the bottom in three four factors stats and in defensive efficiency. While New York is an excellent defending team at the rim (third-best in opp. FG% from less than five feet, per NBA.com) the Knicks rank third-worst in defending mid-range jumpers (44.9 percent) and second-worst in defending long threes (37.1 percent). New York also surrenders a ton of free throws, and while the Mavericks offense isn’t predicated on getting to the free throw lane, the guards do penetrate the lane a lot and will therefore be more likely to draw a foul if a shot isn’t there.

When these two teams met on Nov. 26 in Dallas, the Mavs shot just 4-of-31 from deep. I would not expect that to repeat itself this evening. I also don’t expect the Knicks will shoot 14-of-28 on three-pointers themselves. Outliers like that tend to correct themselves over time. Dirk Nowitzki, however, did not have an outlier performance against the Knicks, scoring 30 points in 39 minutes. Dirk hit several big shots down the stretch in that game, as the Knicks’ perimeter defense was able to contain Monta Ellis and Devin Harris. Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler were the only Mavs to take more than four shots in that game and also shoot 50 percent.

Chandler, by the way, was terrific that night, scoring 17 and adding a ridiculous 25 rebounds, 10 of them offensive. He was +14 on a night when the Mavericks won by just seven. He’s clearly the best center on the floor when these two teams meet and he played that way a couple weeks ago. Nowitzki and Chandler might have to carry the load again this evening, although Ellis and Chandler Parsons have been absolutely scorching-hot lately. With this team, you never know where the points are going to come from: You just know you’re going to get a lot of them.

DEFENSE
Mavs Defense Knicks Offense
Points/100 poss. 105.5 (T-22) 101.2 22)
eFG% 51.6 (25) 49.7 (20)
TOV% 17.4 (2) 16.4 (25)
Off/Def Reb% 71.1 (29) 26.1 (T-13)
FT/FGA .283 (16) .221 (30)

With Carmelo Anthony good to go tonight (he missed the teams’ first meeting) the Mavericks defensive strategy will have to change. Anthony is the quintessential “go-to” guy; he’s the only Knick who averages double-digit field goal attempts per game and averages nearly 10 points per game more than any other player on the team.

New York played a different brand of basketball last time around without its focal point. Jose Calderon led the team in scoring against Dallas, as the former Mav hit seven threes in nine attempts. Six Knicks in total reached double-digits, including backup point guard Pablo Prigioni and starting center Sam Dalembert. It’s often said that teams playing without players who take a high volume of shot attempts actually play better for a game or two, as everyone feels a bit more freed up than normal. The Knicks were definitely playing free-flowing basketball that night, as every player was able to get plenty of shots up. That includes JR Smith, who was 7-of-20 from the field and 1-of-8 from deep. I would suspect Anthony’s shot attempts will outweigh everyone else’s in tonight’s game, which could help either the Mavs or the Knicks depending on whether or not his shot is falling.

The Knicks turn it over quite often, and Dallas remains one of the best teams in the league at forcing turnovers. Last time around, New York coughed it up 22 times in total for 29 Mavs points, and that was the deciding factor in a game in which the Mavs shot just 40 percent from the field. Dallas makes a living off of scoring easy buckets, so the Mavs must look to cause as much havoc tonight as possible. The easiest points to score are dunks on fast breaks, after all.

These are the two last-ranked teams in the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage, so the game could also come down to whichever club can score the most second-chance points. Dallas won the offensive rebounding battle earlier this season, 20-15, and also scored 50 points in the paint to the Knicks’ 24. With Chandler and Brandan Wright attacking the offensive glass, Dallas is better-equipped to turn those second opportunities into immediate points (i.e. put-back dunks), while the Knicks big men don’t have the same ferocity at the rim. For example, Jason Smith grabbed two offensive boards and Calderon grabbed three when these teams met in November, but those aren’t the type of guys who are going to go back up strong and stuff it home. If the Mavericks are indeed going to surrender second-chance opportunities, Dallas must defend for another 24 seconds and try to limit easy looks as much as possible.

Crazy things tend to happen when teams meet in rematches, and that especially holds true when some of the players involved have much at stake. Anthony, for example, hasn’t faced the Mavs this season. Parsons is red-hot but is still hurting. Dirk is looking to bust out of a slump, and he’s always owned the Garden. Tyson Chandler is apparently going to be booed by Knicks fans, although all he did for them was win Defensive Player of the Year and anchor the defense of the best Knicks team in more than 15 seasons. Calderon and Dalembert are looking to repeat their “revenge game” performances. With so much drama, how could you not want to see this one?

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