Monday, February 13, 2012
Week ahead: Chris Paul, Jeremy Lin
By Jeff Caplan
DALLAS -- What a week this stands to be for the suddenly streaking (again) Dallas Mavericks. Four games are on tap over the next seven days and it starts and ends against two of the most headline-drawing point guards in the game.
Chris Paul, almost a Los Angeles Laker until he became a Clipper, has that longtime moribund franchise sitting pretty with the second-best record in the Western Conference. The Clippers are perhaps the most complete team in the West in regard to youth and veteran mix and talent at every position.
Coop and Nate weigh in on the Mavericks' recent success, Dirk's emergence and the upcoming slate of games.
Of course, Paul brings along fellow All-Star starter Blake Griffin for what should be a highly-entertaining game tonight at the American Airlines Center.
The week ends Sunday at Madison Square Garden, which is dizzy from "Linsanity," the remarkable story of unheralded point guard Jeremy Lin out of Harvard -- and a Mavs summer league sensation two year ago -- that has saved the Knicks' season and offered real hope.
In the middle are games against Denver at home and a tough road test at Philadelphia. All-in-all, these four teams are a combined 21 games over .500 with only New York (13-15) below .500. But, with a favorable schedule (at Toronto, vs. Sacramento and vs. New Orleans) prior to Sunday's anticipated matchup, the Knicks just might have their record pointed north of .500 for the first time this season.
But, who could have figured that Lin, and not Tyson Chandler, would be the former Mavs man making headlines in the Big Apple when these two clubs get together for their lone meeting in NYC?
Here's a look at the week ahead:
Tonight: vs. Los Angeles Clippers (17-8), 7:30 p.m. TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Clippers won the first meeting in L.A. on a Chauncey Billups buzzer-beater. Dallas won't have to worry about that happening again because Billups is out for the season with an Achilles injury. However, the Mavs didn't see Paul in L.A. because he was still nursing a hamstring injury. But, Dallas knows all about the powers of the All-Star starting point guard. This should be an electric atmosphere for a matchup of two legitimate Western Conference contenders. The Clippers arrived in Big D on Sunday well-rested after romping past Charlotte on Saturday.
Wednesday: vs. Denver Nuggets (16-12), 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Nuggets ended its five-game slide, with one of those losses coming to to the Mavs in Denver last week, at Indiana and perhaps have steadied things with Danilo Gallinari out of the lineup for a few more weeks at least with the badly sprained ankle. These two have both won on the other's home court this season. This will be the third of four meetings. The Nuggets are in the midst of a much-needed two-day break and play host to Phoenix on Tuesday night.
Friday: at Philadelphia 76ers (19-9), 7 p.m. TV/Radio: ESPN, FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: The Sixers are tied with San Antonio for the most home wins in the league with 13. They can score -- they've got six players averaging in double figures -- but Philly is doing it with defense, ranking second in the NBA in points allowed at 86.7 and are tied with the Lakers for lowest defensive field-goal percentage at 41.7 However, Philly has built its record mostly against Eastern Conference competition and are just 5-5 against West teams, including two home losses last week to the Spurs and Clippers.
Sunday: at New York Knicks (13-15), Noon TV/Radio: ABC/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM; 1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Emotions should be high as the Mavs visit Tyson Chandler, the man so many have credited with bringing accountability to defense in Dallas and cementing the club as a true champion. Little had gone right for the Knicks until the Jeremy Lin explosion, but Chandler has put together another nice season, averaging 11.9 points on 69.4 percent shooting and 9.9 rebounds. The Knicks have won five in a row with the odd starting lineup of Lin, Landry Fields, Jared Jeffries, Bill Walker and Chandler. The Mavs might not see Carmelo Anthony (groin strain), but Amare Stoudemire, who has been grieving the death of his brother, returned to practice Monday and he should be as dangerous as ever with Lin playing the role of Steve Nash and feeding the big man off the pick-and-roll.