The Knicks are aiming for their first 4-0 start since the 1993-94 season. The defensive effort on both ends, Carmelo Anthony's 19 points and O.J. Mayo's hot 3-point shooting (4-for-6) are keeping things interesting.
Here are five observations at the half:
1. Defensive intensity. Both teams are getting after it the first half, as both want to hold down the top record in the NBA (Dallas is tied for the best in the West at 4-1). You can sense it with every defensive rotation. There's a lot speed and aggressiveness on the court. It's the kind of game where transition basketball will be the difference, in order to break away from the grind-out halfcourt offense. Both teams took advantage of the fast break in the first half, building their own leads.
2. The Knicks' hot start. They haven't lost a first quarter yet. Tonight, they led 25-23 at the end of one. Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd controlled the tempo, as they've been doing all along, and Melo was Melo, with a few other intangibles sprinkled here and there. Even though Dallas won the second period, the Knicks have been fighting all the way through. The effort and consistency is evident, which is most important to Mike Woodson.
3. The Knicks' smart timing. Felton knows when to push. Kidd knows when to make the extra pass. Ronnie Brewer knows when to move without the ball and go for the rebound. Carmelo Anthony knows when to do a lot of things, especially when to spin off of his defender for the pass inside. And Tyson Chandler knows when to sneak inside the paint for the lob pass. All of these things were on display in the first half. Brewer's 12-point first half, including two 3-pointers, was especially helpful. He was the only other Knicks' scorer in double figures.
4. The Knicks' paint game. They entered the game last in the league in points in the paint per game (29.3), but in the first half, they had 26. Anthony, Chandler, Brewer, J.R. Smith and Rasheed Wallace all got in there. Woodson has wanted to see more attacking from different angles beyond Melo, and the guys did that in the first half.
5. Marcus Camby's debut and Rasheed Wallace's early play. Camby took the court for the first time, starting off the second quarter (he had three rebounds), and Wallace checked in with 4:56 to play in the first period, replacing Chandler. It caught the surprise of many, but Sheed played well, scoring twice inside, grabbing five boards and challenging Chris Kaman.
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