WE BEGIN IN THE MAVS PREGAME INTRODUCTIONS: (This isn't actually from the Dallas Mavericks-at-Knicks game; the Garden won't allow us the same freedom we have to roam around the AAC. But it still gets you in game mood, right?)
OK, are you loose enough now to break down Dallas' sixth straight win and seventh in eight outings?
AMONG THE CELEBS WHO WATCHED THE GAME: Amare Stoudemire!
Spike Lee was there, dressed comically like some cat in a hat. Chris Rock watched and made fun of the Mavs for about one quarter. Justin Bieber watched even though he was up past his bedtime. Woody Allen watched even though his wife was up past her bedtime.
Oh, and another celebrity spectator: Amare Stoudemire.
First of all, we didn't stop that guy,'' said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle of Amare. "A great player and a legitimate MVP candidate, no doubt about that.''
First of all, you did stop him – at least in the second half, when Amare followed up his 21 first-half points with zero second-half points. Tyson Chandler's one-on-one defensive work on Amare was stout and smart; it is clear TY did some studying of what works for Amare and worked at anticipating that.
"We made some great adjustments at halftime,'' T.Y. tweeted after the game. "Good to see our defense getting back on track.''
But there was also evidence of the occasional indifference from Amare that we saw often during his Phoenix career. He was 0-of-5 from the floor in the second half …
"The shots were good looks," Stoudemire said. "There are just some nights like this where you miss your shots,
OK. But he also grabbed just five rebounds for a team that really needed them (NY was outboarded by the Mavs 54-34). And when Tyson Chandler recorded one of a series of alley-oop dunks off pick-and-rolls, Amare didn't seem to want any part of it.
Eventually in the fourth, Amare was tugged back to the New York bench to enjoy the proceedings along with Spike and Bieber and Rock and Woody and the fellas.
‘FIRST TEAM TO 120': If that was going to be the measuring stick, we should've known Dallas would win: The Mavs are now 23-1 when scoring over 100.
Jason Terry had predicted, "It's gonna be up-tempo, high-paced. And I don't think the first team to 100 wins this one, but I think it's gonna be over 120."
That really isn't a preference for a Mavs team that, unlike the Knicks, is actually capable of playing four quarters of defense. Nor, to us, is being drawn into that pace ideal – because dictating pace is something that Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni certainly has mastered.
So some of the best moments here as the Mavs moved to 33-15 (and right on the Lakers' second-place-in-the-West ass) came when the Mavs scored while under control in the second half… Jason Kidd operating a secondary break and feeding Terry for a reverse layup, the Mavs patiently eating clock until Dirk Nowitzki could find a favorable matchup (which he seemed to have against about 10 different Knicks) …
And then the panicky Knicks would respond by sprinting the other way to commit a too-fast charge or a too-fast turnover.
The Knicks can score; they entered with the second-best scoring average in all the NBA at 106.7 points a night. But with Dirk now looking very much right, the Mavs can score, too; they're averaging 108 per in their six consecutive victories.
No, this wasn't quite like Dallas' last visit to the Garden, when the Mavs won by 50, 128-78.
And the red glow of alarm may have flashed during the opening quarter of Wednesday's contest with the Knicks as Stoudemire led his team to 34 total points.
Though fashionably late, the Mavs defense would soon arrive and quiet the worry by suffocating the Knicks' offense for the following three periods as the Mavs would take their sixth straight -- the 16-point margin of victory equaling their largest of the season.
No, not a classic blowout, exactly. But it was similar to last year's visit in the sense that the game pitted a team capable of doing two things well against a team capable of doing one thing well.
MARION'S MESS: While we noticed the early hustle that helped Shawn Marion get to 10 rebounds for the game, there's little doubt that this is a personal performance The Matrix would like to soon forget.
He would hit only one of his eight shots while tying for the team-lead in turnovers at four. This was one of those occasional outings in which ‘Trix seems to be sort of floating in and out of things … not always moving with authority … and tossing up an assortment of "baby-push-hook'' shots in the lane – that air-ball.
Nothing worth remembering, and we'll leave it at that.
THE UBERWATCH: We've proceeded with caution while watching Dirk Nowitzki progress through the sometimes-painful steps of his recovery, and for the first time since his return, we may have seen the first complete game from The Uberman to really deliver a feeling that a full recovery was within reach.
There was the recaptured efficiency, as he hit 10-of-16 shots to gather his game-high 29 points. Over the last three games, Dirk has made 25 of his 38 attempts, or a remarkable 65.8 percent.
Another sign of progressed healing: he also collected 11 rebounds to post a double-double – his first since mid-December.
We've pointed to Nowitzki's loss of movement as he has labored with his leg, on this night it appeared to be all-but-gone. Beyond the shooting touch and rebounding, there was also an early hustle play that showed a hustling big German come close to blocking a Toney Douglas breakaway-layup try. He also contested a NY bomb late in the game while helping out on defense.
We can't say Dirk has reached 100 percent …
"I think when 41 is out on the floor, just his presence, no matter if he's 50 percent or 100 percent, he draws so much attention," point guard Jason Kidd said, "and we've got guys who are shooting the ball extremely well from behind the arc and it just opens up the whole court."
Yes. But 100 percent is coming. Signs are certainly pointing to the reality that it may be much closer than at any point since his return. … and here's a sign of normalcy:
Doesn't he always score 29 points a game in New York?
INJURY UPDATE: Carlisle said Peja could debut with the Mavs next week … and that he's a notch ahead of Roddy B in terms of returning.
"Between now and then,'' Rick said, "(Peja's) workouts have got to continue to be going in the right direction in terms of the conditioning and the rehab on the knee, and so far it's been all very positive.''
Here's an educated (and maybe optimistic?) guess as to how this might play out:
Peja (who signed with Dallas on Jan. 24 but hasn't really played since sitting on Toronto's bench since November) really doesn't need a practice to be plugged into the team,.
The Mavs will return home after a Saturday game in Charlotte, and probably will not practice on Sunday … and then host the lowly Cavs on Monday, Feb. 7.
Peja could be ready right then.
Roddy B? He cannot be plugged in that easily. He is back in Dallas with Peja, working out … but he'll need to be eased in. He'll need to practice.
So maybe Peja next Monday … and hopefully Roddy B shortly thereafter.
MCKINNEYDENTIST.COM QUOTEBOARD: Mark Cuban says on visits to New York, "People don't scream at me buy the Knicks any more. Now they scream, ‘We're going to kick your ass."
More of the good stuff – all of the quotes you need to see – are coming up on the front page in the McKinneyDentist.com Quoteboard.
SO WHO DESERVES THE DIRKIE?: Go rock the vote for Player of the Game. It's a Mavs DB.com tradition, y'all!
TY AS AN ALL-STAR?: Tyson Chandler continued to validate any All-Star considerations tossed his way with another double-double, finishing this game with 15 points, 11 rebounds, one block and a heck of a job playing a significant role in holding Amar'e Stoudemire scoreless in the second half.
We can continue to write about the marked impact Chandler has had on the Dallas defense, about the energy he injects into this roster, about the scoring threat (which has become much more than threat in recent games) he provides on offense and his overall influence within the team success found thus far; and we will when warranted, but it would certainly feel nice to see those efforts rewarded with an All-Star nomination.
When Chandler posts a double-double, the Mavs are now 9-2.
And during this win streak, he's re-invented himself into pretty much an 18/10 guy.
And an All-Star candidate.
"If you look at the center position, I feel like I'm the best in the West,'' Chandler said. "Of the centers that are playing in the West, I feel I've had the best year and the most impact."
DOUBLE-DOUBLE VISION: Speaking of those double-doubles, this is only the second time this season to see two Dallas players finish with double-doubles consisting of points and rebounds. The previous instance occurred on Nov. 29 when Dirk (20 points and 10 rebounds) and Shawn Marion (14 points and 10 rebounds) pulled it off.
That was also a Mavs' win.
If you open the field to include all double-doubles (allowing assists into consideration), you add four additional occurrences. Of those five total games Dallas has won four.
The lone loss came against the Spurs on Dec. 30, and included a Jason Kidd triple-double.
"RUN, FELLAS, RUN!'': This was a game of runs. Maddening, frantic, make-it-stop runs.
Early, the Mavs rode a 15-2 surge to leap to a 17-8 lead. New York would respond immediately with a 13-2 push of their own, which they would extend to 26-to-10 to close the quarter.
The second period was pried open by 10 straight points from the Mavs, with eight of those coming from J.J. Barea.
Notable: 21-to-2 was the splash Dallas would make in the third quarter as they began to pull away for good, despite the fact that New York would immediately respond again with a 13-0 run of their own.
As we said, this was a game of runs.
JJB VS. CHRIS ROCK: Our man Mark Followill reported that Chris Rock was crackin' on JJB … but that had to be before the actual game started.
We mentioned Barea for playing a key part in the second quarter Dallas push, and his moments to thrive were not confined there.
For the night, he would score 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Any time Barea can outscore the biggest offensive weapon on the opposing team (noting his 22 in comparison to Amar'e's 21), the Mavs will happily accept that.
Barea also continued his strong 3-point shooting by going 3-of-4 behind the arc, further burying the memory of his early season pains from distance. And that big run to start the second half? JJB also started the second half.
Our ears may have been deceiving us, but we think the "basketball-smart'' fans at the Garden might've gone from chanting "M-V-P!'' to chanting "J-J-B!''
TOP TO BOTTOM, ALMOST: All 11 Dallas players who saw the court scored at least two points. That's from starter Brian Cardinal down to mop-upper DoJo.
In between? Only two Mavs would fail to hit at least 50 percent of their shot attempts. They were Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd. Combined they would hit only three of their 18 shots, or 16.7 percent.
The rest of the team would hit 39-of-66 for 59.1 percent.
Kidd did run the show as a passer though. He's included in the highlight reel:
MAVSELLANEOUS: In the second quarter, Dirk reached 22,000 points for his career by scoring his 13th points in the game, becoming only player No. 24 to do so in NBA history. … Wilson Chandler (calf) was in Dallas' gameplan figurin' but New York opted to sit him out for one more game. … Garden fans booed Justin Bieber for wearing oversized pink sunglasses when shown on the jumbotron. But I think he simply borrowed those from the clownish Spike Lee. … The Knicks (25-23 and trying to hang onto sixth in the East) shot 56 percent in the first quarter. In the second and third combined they hit 14-of-42 attempts, or 33.3 percent. And over the final three periods, the Knicks (the league's second highest scoring offense) would shoot only 36.5 percent for 63 points. … Dallas is now 9-0 when Nowitzki has a double-double. … It hasn't always been pretty, but Dallas is suddenly nursing a six-game winning stream. Question the aesthetic beauty of the contest, but you can't deny the results. … The Mavs' 54 rebounds ties a season-high and the 20-rebound margin is a season topper. … I'm not chasing any more baseball teams," said Mavs owner Mark Cuban as he held court with NY writers who apparently love the Mets. … Luckily, the Knicks never quite noticed that Dallas couldn't handle Gallinari, who scored 27 points but was only allowed 14 shots while making all 12 of his FTs. …
LIBB: Remember Shawne Williams, once upon a time a Mavs' "Lightning-In-A-Bottle Boy''? Not a good night for our old pal.
We're not saying we blame Shawne for his inability to guard Dirk; we blame D'Antoni for actually thinking that would work, as Shawne fouled out in 24 minutes with two points.
Hey, Dirk's a nightmare matchup. For everybody. But NY's plan was to handle him with starter Ronny Turiaf and Shawne? And when that didn't work, this Mozgov kid?
THE FINAL WORD: I think our defense has been going back to where we were in November-December," Nowitzki said. "I think if you look at our effort defensively in the second half, that's what won us the game."