Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 8:13 PM
What had been a relatively innocuous game on the schedule turned into must-see TV when Jeremy Lin’s explosion turned the New York Knicks into the showcase team in the league. Well, temporarily anyway. The Dallas Mavericks may build on what the lowly New Orleans Hornets accomplished Friday Night, helping to pop a bubble that got way too big way too quickly.
Which is the fluke?! The red hot start that included a 38-point performance against the Los Angeles Lakers? Or, the turnover debacle vs. New Orleans that saw all shooters not named Amare or Jeremy struggle from the field because the flow of the offense had been disrupted?
We’ll learn more about that today. It’s important for all handicappers and fans to remember that Dallas has gotten very good about disrupting the flow of offenses. It wasn’t just step-back jumpers from Dirk Nowitzki that won the Mavericks the title last year.
*Dallas did a great job all through the playoff of forcing opponents to shoot from spots outside their comfort zone. Outside of one bad quarter against Brandon Roy of Portland, they kept the Portland Trailblazers well under control in the first round. That was a series many pundits picked Portland to win.
*Dallas humiliated the LA Lakers on both ends of the floor, making life difficult for Kobe whenever he had the ball in his hands, and life difficult for the whole team because they weren’t build to play from way behind.
*Dallas got so deep into the head of Russell Westbrook in the Western finals that he seemingly spent the whole series forcing up bad shots from low percentage spots while Kevin Durant patiently waited for the ball. That Mavericks win over Oklahoma City was a DEFENSIVE win even if the TV networks preferred to emphasize star power.
*Dallas frustrated LeBron James and Miami so badly in the final minutes of championship games that LeBron didn’t even want the ball any more. He just kept throwing it to teammates hoping they’d score. From Games two through five, Dallas outscored Miami 60-26 in the last six minutes of those four games. That’s the equivalent of a HALF of basketball, where Dallas allowed potent Miami just 26 points.
Tyson Chandler got the lion’s share of credit for the great Dallas playoff defense last year. That’s because the media tends to focus on names instead of strategies. If Dallas is playing good defense, let’s give all the credit to their best defensive stopper. Well, Chandler is in New York now, and the Dallas defense is even better this year!
NBA POINTS ALLOWED PER POSSESSION
Ranking fourth overall, and first in the Western Conference is certainly terrific. But, it’s important to note that the three teams ahead of Dallas have played the three easiest schedules in the league. It’s easy to shut down the crappy teams in the Eastern Conference…and Philly, Chicago, and Boston have had more than their share of those opponents on the first half schedule. In terms of “schedule adjusted” defense, Dallas is the very best in the league right now. Even without Tyson Chandler.
Philadelphia can tell you about that. They scored just 24 points in the second half Friday Night in an embarrassing home loss to the Mavericks.
This is all bad news for Jeremy Lin. He was having turnover troubles during New York’s winning streak that came mostly against bad opposition. He had a virtual turnover meltdown in the first half of the New Orleans loss Friday…and New Orleans is terrible. TODAY is where we find out how well Lin can really play vs. good defenses. Well, assuming Dallas isn’t bleary eyed for the early start after spending Saturday Night in the Big Apple!
Another key about this game we want you to know is that New York has slowed their pace down with Lin. You’ve been hearing from the media that Lin is a perfect fit for head coach Mike Dantoni’s system. For years, Dantoni’s system was running and gunning while trying to find open treys in transition. That’s NOT what’s happening with Lin. Lin is a pick-and-roll player who finds openings based on what the defense is giving him. But, that’s all coming in halfcourt sets that slow the game down.
That will have us considering the Under in this game, depending on what our New York sources are saying about game preparation from both teams. Dallas has played three straight Unders, and it would be four if not for an overtime game. They’re 3-6 to the Under the last nine games, which would be 2-7 to the Under if not for the overtime. New York is 2-6 to the Under since Lin came on the scene, with one of the Overs being by half a point. Their last three games have stayed Under by double digits.
Some quick stats for you do-it-yourselfers…
Dallas: 4th in the NBA
New York: 8th in the NBA
New York has played the easier schedule, so the differences aren’t quite that close. But, New York is playing much better defense this year with Tyson Chandler in the lineup. And, they have some role players who know how to defend.
Dallas 17th in the NBA
New York 24th in the NBA
Dallas started the season sluggishly, with Nowitzki out of shape and Lamar Odom out of sorts. Injuries have also played a role in this disappointing ranking. We expect better in the second half of the season…though it’s important to remember that Dallas is a much more well-rounded team than the media gives them credit for. New York was awful on offense before Lin showed up to distribute the ball. Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire are both ball stoppers. It remains to be seen how well the pieces will fit together once everyone’s healthy. We do expect better than 24th from the Knicks going forward.
Both tied at 19th in the NBA
It’s not a strength for either team at this point, which is likely to become an issue come playoff time. Dallas needs to rebound better than this if they want to repeat as champions. New York has little chance of catching Miami and Chicago in terms of championship hopes to begin with…and those are two of the top rebounding teams in the NBA.
Dallas 9th in the NBA
New York 29th in the NBA
The Knicks were struggling badly in this stat to begin with, and Lin is still way too sloppy with the ball when trying to make heroic passes or drives. In games that will come down to the final possessions, this is going to matter (as long as those teams are better than Toronto). Dallas plays smart basketball, because Mark Cuban has hired a bunch of smart people to run things…and to find smart players to execute the gameplan. This was very evident Friday Night against the Sixers…as Philly seemed confused and clueless down the stretch.
There are a lot of reasons to like Dallas given the numbers we’ve been studying. Just remember that they are dealing with multiple injuries right now…and that Jeremy Lin and the entire offense is in a bounce-back spot after the “falling back to Earth” game vs. New Orleans. The crowd will be ready for a show. If Dallas comes out flatfooted, the stats aren’t going to matter. If Dallas shows up ready to play…this game will have a playoff feel to it that will tell you a lot about both teams.
JIM HURLEY is looking closely at this game for serious play as a stand-alone or as part of a TV parlay. Other big TV games today are Orlando-Miami on ABC, and Denver-Oklahoma City on ESPN. Over in the colleges, Michigan State-Purdue, Syracuse-Rutgers, and Duke-Boston College offer up some possibilities.
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Don’t forget that Monday is a HOLIDAY! Take care of business early just in case Atlanta-Chicago from the afternoon slate shows up in the mix. We’re going to have a special NBA report touching on an important theme in honor of the 11-game holiday schedule. That will get you ready to handicap that ESPN day game, plus Boston-Dallas and Portland-LA Lakers on TNT in prime time.
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