On Friday night, the Knicks are facing basically a brand-new Mavericks team from the one Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler were on in 2010-11, when they won a title together. Only four players remain: Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones. Interestingly, Steve Novak was initially on that championship team, but he was waived three months into the season.
With Dallas off to a 4-1 start even without Nowitzki (right knee surgery) -- here are four things to watch for:
1. Who's going to win the 3-point shootout? Although the Knicks have been hot from downtown, (43 for 95, 45.3 percent), the Mavericks have been the hottest in the NBA (50 for 103, 48.5 percent), and that's been sans Nowitzki. O.J. Mayo (21), Vince Carter (10) and Jae Crowder (nine) lead the way. If you recall, Crowder -- like Novak, a former Marquette player -- was on the Knicks' wish list entering the 2012 NBA draft.
Darren Collison's playmaking in the pick-and-roll has been a big reason for the Mavericks' ability to move the ball. "He's playing extremely well for them right now," Kidd said this week. Dallas went after the point guard in a sign-and-trade this summer once Kidd opted to sign with the Knicks.
The Mavericks also like to integrate post-ups with Carter, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand, which set up their 3-point shooters. They haven't been challenged yet defensively from the perimeter, which the Knicks have been doing, but Kidd knows coach Rick Carlisle will have his guys ready.
"They're playing great," he said. "Coach Carlisle will always have his teams ready to play no matter who suits up, and so you give him credit, but they have some talent over there."
2. How will the Mayo vs. J.R. Smith matchup play out? Although Mayo starts and Smith comes off the bench, the two shooting guards will go head-to-head during the game, and it should be fun to watch. They're two of the most efficient players in the league right now. Mayo (21.6 points per game) and Smith (16.0 ppg) are shooting 63.6 and 61.5 percent from 3-point range, respectively, and averaging less than two turnovers in about 34 minutes per game.
Smith has been really getting after it defensively this season (1.7 steals per game), so Mayo will have his work cut out for him.
"If you're that athletic, you can definitely play defense," Chandler said this week. "He's learning the system, he's learning day by day and he's getting better and better."
3. How much will Marcus Camby contribute? The backup center will make his debut tonight, and his defense could come in handy against Kaman (18.0 ppg, 70.6 field goal percentage). He can do it all: post, drive and shoot.
Beyond Kaman, the Mavericks have been playing mostly smaller ball lately, like the Knicks. Therefore, the Knicks will need more of their guards and forwards on the court to match the speed of Mayo and Collison, and to close out on their shooters.
4. Can the Knicks score some more in the paint? One of the questions on everyone's mind is: What if the Knicks get cold from the outside? Well, so far, they do not have an offensive presence down low. In fact, they rank last in the league in points in the paint per game (29.3). Although it's just three games into the season, they need more attacking and finishing beyond Carmelo Anthony, who should make Dallas pay without the defensive specialist Marion (left knee injury). Crowder, the rookie, is not backing down from the challenge, though.
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