Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd return to Big D, where they led the Mavericks to victory in the 2011 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. Although Dirk was the Finals MVP, Tyson made up for Nowitzki's lacking defensive presence and allowed him to focus on scoring the rock. Kidd guided the Mavs in the same way he does the Knicks, playing the role of the floor-general and bringing the intangibles that allows the team to keep its focus in pressure-packed situations. The fact that Mavericks' owner Marc Cuban has proclaimed that he will not retire Kidd's jersey, despite the fact that Kidd personified leadership during his entire stint in Dallas, is a travesty. I expect the Knicks to come out with a vengeance early in this game and blow the Mavericks out of the water.
MELO THE MVP
Melo may not have the all-around game of a LeBron, but his importance to this Knicks squad cannot be understated. Look no further than last night's game; the Knicks dominated the first quarter because Melo couldn't miss. He will go through stretches where is truly unstoppable, and can flick the switch on quicker than anyone in the league. When Coach Woodson gave Melo his normal rest to start the 2nd quarter, the Knicks offense came out flat and they lost all momentum. This lack of effort and continuity carried over to their defensive effort and they let up 31 points to the lowly Hornets.
Melo has been hustling on defense and hasn't been putting huge numbers just because he's a volume shooter; he's playing smart basketball, taking good shots, and showcasing his all-around talent with phenomenal passing and solid defense. He's playing the best ball of his career and should he keep this pace all year, the Knicks will be right at the top of the Eastern Conference come April.
I fully expect the Knicks to wipe the floor with the Mavericks all night long. Without Dirk, Dallas is not have a consistent offense. They have lost 5 of 7 games and lack the talent to beat a team as hot as NY. Meanwhile, the Knicks have won 8 of 9 games this year and shouldn't be too tired after last night's victory; nobody played more than 31 minutes and the game was over by the 3rd quarter. Jason Kidd will be lights out tonight, although it may not show up on the stat sheet. The hockey-assists and deflections he consistently has night-in and night-out are not counted, but they do not go unnoticed. Look for Woodson to give him big minutes and let him guide this team to victory.