After failing to hold a double-digit lead against the Timberwolves, the Knicks looks to get back into the win column with a victory over Luka Doncic and the Mavericks.
The New York Knicks (24-24) are coming off a tough 102-101 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, where the Knicks led by as much as 13 points in the fourth quarter. The talking points after the game were the usuals—Elfrid Payton absorbing the majority of minutes at point guard and Tom Thibodeau’s reliance on veterans burning him as the upstart Wolves leaned on their kids and stole a victory from the jaws of defeat.
For the Knicks, it’s a disappointing loss. However, it feels like the first “bad loss” of the season. Hopefully, it doesn’t become a habit as we inch closer and closer to the playoffs. These games matter now, and that daunting May slate looms.
The Knicks travel back home to face the Dallas Mavericks (25-21) with a chance to bounce back. The Mavericks are winners of five of their last eight games, and the team seems to be turning the corner with Luka Doncic leading the way. The matchup will primarily be an offense versus defense affair, as the Knicks rank fourth in defensive efficiency, while the Mavericks rank 10th in offensive efficiency.
Alongside Doncic, the Mavericks pair him with Jalen Brunson (12.7 points, 3.3 assists) in the backcourt. Old friend Tim Hardaway Jr. (16.6 points, 39.3% from three) continues to gets buckets in the Lone Star State, while Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Maxi Kleber help create just enough defense to provide balance. Oh, and former Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis is there, too.
In total, the Mavericks have a superstar in Doncic and the good, not great, pieces around him. Porzingis has struggled to stay healthy, which puts a significant cap on their upside, but Brunson and Hardaway have held up the scoring needed. Richardson and Finney-Smith are D-and-3 guys—good defenders who offer just enough stretch to keep defenses honest. When you hand Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle a superstar and just good enough role players, you have a playoff team.
Some familiar names on the injury list, but we also have a new name on there as well. Mitchell Robinson remains out with a broken foot, Derrick Rose has been largely out for the last few weeks now, but seeing R.J. Barrett on the mend is a new one.
Injury Report – 4/2 vs. DAL: Questionable – RJ Barrett (sprained right ankle); Derrick Rose (sore left ankle); Out – Mitchell Robinson (right foot surgery).
— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) April 1, 2021
Rose being out isn’t largely new, as the veteran point guard has been sidelined with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis before the ankle injury. The Knicks have been rather lifeless in the second unit without him and creating pressure at the rim. Barrett being out could change the game for the Knicks. The second-year wing from Duke was in the midst of a breakout on both sides of the ball—slashing and shooting his way into being a second option on offense while accepting the challenge of defending the opposing team’s best perimeter player on the other end.
I didn’t even see the injury during the game—there was no mention on the telecast either. Lost in the missed game-winning attempt, Barrett had a solid game and even played great defense against Wolves guard Anthony Edwards. Losing Barrett would be a terrible loss, but if he needs to sit a game or two to rest up, the Knicks should sit him a bit. The cost would be Thibodeau taxing Julius Randle a bit more than he would like, but it would also open up minutes for Immanuel Quickley and Frank Ntilikina.
What to Watch
Defending Luka Doncic: The third-year guard via Real Madrid is heating up. Currently averaging 28.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 8.9 assists, Doncic has caught fire from three, shooting 41.2% since February. He’s a tough guard for just about anyone in the league, thanks to his outside shooting and propensity to draw fouls and get to the line. With R.J. Barrett potentially out, the Knicks will have to make a big decision on who gets the assignment of slowing Luka down tomorrow.
Immanuel Quickley’s Minutes: Loss in the Payton conversation is the lack of playing time for Quickley. Quickley has failed to play 20 minutes in the last two games while registering zero fouls in both contests. Unacceptable when you consider New York’s need for spacing around the likes of Barrett and Julius Randle. Hopefully, he sees an uptick in minutes because this is a solid matchup for him with Brunson being a poor defender and the Knicks needing someone who can score a bit against Dallas’ long defenders. Quickley should see upwards of 25 minutes against the Mavericks.
Alec Burks: Point guard minutes: In place of using Quickley and with Rose out, Thibodeau has been quick to use Alec Burks at point guard to neutral results. With his size and ball handling, Burks gives the Knicks another scorer on the bench to apply some pressure to the rim. On the other hand, he’s not really that much of a creator, and while he doesn’t create a record scratch in the offense, he does focus on his own shot. With Barrett playing, it’s a minor annoyance, but the Knicks might need his scoring to stay in this game without Barrett.
Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. ET from the Garden.