The NBA’s leading candidate for Rookie of the Year, Luka Doncic, and the Mavs make their first and only pit stop in New York to face the reeling Knicks on Wednesday.
The Knicks continue to spiral downward, as they extended their losing streak into double digits on Monday night with a loss to the Charlotte Hornets in their regular season series finale.
After grueling, recent back-to-back losses that included diminishing play throughout the second half of both the Miami and Charlotte games, the Knicks enjoyed a day off before returning home to take on the Dallas Mavericks—a team that they had beaten before on November 2nd.
This will be a rare opportunity for the Knicks to sweep an opponent in the regular season, as well as a chance to break their losing streak before it comes close to touching a franchise record.
Tip-off is scheduled for Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Not Just Beginner’s Luck for Luka
The last time the Knicks faced off against the Mavericks, it was just a few weeks into Luka Doncic’s NBA career. Up until that November 2nd meeting, the Slovenian rookie had been off to a good start to his debut season.
As an international player, there were some doubts entering into the regular season, as he didn’t have the same familiarity as other more-established lottery picks who had garnered hype for their efforts in college. For Doncic, who sat out Summer League, skeptics needed to see him deliver in regular season play—not just the preseason.
So far, so good for the 6-foot-7 wing who’s been tabbed Dirk Nowitzki’s heir apparent. He currently leads the Mavericks in scoring, averaging 20.5 points per game. He also has the second-most rebounds and assists on the team, averaging 6.9 and 5.4, respectively.
He’s coming into Wednesday night hot, after being the youngest NBA player ever to record a 30-point triple-double against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. He tallied 35 points, 12 boards, and 10 assists in the loss. It was also his second triple-double of the year, becoming the first player to achieve such a mark before turning 20.
In the previous meeting against the Knicks, Doncic feasted on New York from inside. He was able to attack the basket and penetrate with ease, finishing 6-for-9 from inside the arc en route to an 18-point performance that also included nine rebounds and six assists.
With a depleted backcourt, ailing from injuries to Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay, it’ll be interesting to see how David Fizdale adjusts to Doncic. Mudiay, although he isn’t the greatest defender, was able to hold his own against Doncic in their last matchup. Ntilikina (groin) obviously shines on the defensive end, and his length and prowess on that end of the court would’ve been welcomed—which leads to our next point.
As Jared Hamburg pointed out in Monday night’s game recap versus the Hornets, Trey Burke is not the answer at point guard. Although he had solid outings in recent games against Brooklyn (25 points) and Miami (16 points), his scoring cannot mask the rest of his game for long.
When the shots aren’t falling, it becomes especially apparent. He had just nine points on 4-of-11 shooting against the Hornets. His 6-foot-1, 175-pound stature limits him at times when it comes to attacking the basket, as he can easily be hampered by a brick wall of frontcourt defenders protecting the rim. He can add a scoring punch—only when he’s able to get going—but he doesn’t really set up for his teammates in the same way Ntilikina or Mudiay can.
Defensively, he can be a liability at times and isn’t the sharpest on that side of the court. You can see why his spot in the rotation was fading away before those injuries. With a limited number of ball handlers available, New York will need good contributions from both ends of the court from their point guards and back court.
While all eyes are on Doncic, you can’t forget that Dennis Smith Jr. carved the Knicks for a team-high 23 points in that November clash, or that Wesley Matthews is capable of getting hot from time-to-time and can score from all three levels of the floor.
Expecting More and Kadeem’s Dream
With that said, it’ll be interesting to see how recent G League call-up Kadeem Allen does in his second game with the Knicks. He looked good in his 18-minute debut, playing a solid all-around game and committing great energy on both ends of the court.
As someone who was just in the G League a few days ago and for a majority of the season thus far, it’s safe to say we should temper our expectations, but Allen showed he can be a contributor off the bench. It will be fun to see how he develops, and with backcourt minutes up in the air, he’ll have opportunities to prove himself. Hopefully he can follow up on another positive note.
While the expectations aren’t super high for Allen in what will be his second game in a Knick uniform, fans can hope for a bounce-back effort from Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson. Dotson didn’t look that great against the Hornets, but Trier looked like he was struggling immensely. He was able to get to the free throw line and cash in on 7-of-8 foul shots, but his 0-for-7 shooting night on 21 minutes is unacceptable. Everyone has their off nights, but he was missing great looks at the basket.
In a game that was close for a majority of the way, some made shots on his end could have changed the tone.
- Kevin Knox was able to find a groove midway through Monday night’s game. After a cold-shooting week, it was nice to see him get going again. Hopefully that was just the start of him getting back on track, and he’ll be able to build on it for Wednesday night.
- Tim Hardaway Jr. needs to be applauded for the effort he gave in defending Kemba Walker on Monday night. He helped hold the All-Star guard to just 14 points on an inefficient 5-of-16 shooting night. Also, as much as some fans may be clamoring for Enes Kanter to get some minutes and help the Knicks clean up the glass—an area they’ve been struggling with—it would be great to see that same intensity Hardaway gave in other facets of the game (not just scoring), every single night. He had 10 boards against the Hornets—just the second time he reached double figures in that category all season. When you combine all that with the scoring punch he gave the Knicks to start the game, it’s a lot more fun to watch him play all-around. Rebounding and defense aren’t types of play he’s known for—and maybe it’s just to fuel alleged trade talks—but there’s no doubt it was welcomed.