Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE
The Knicks are the lone unbeaten team in the NBA at 3-0. Will they stay perfect on Friday night, hosting the Mavericks?
Raise your hand if you pegged the New York Knicks as the NBA's last unbeaten team of the 2012-13 season. Now that we've searched the land and found nobody who predicted that, the question is now how long the Knicks can keep their perfect record in tact.
The Knicks aren't the only surprising team in the land. Their opponents on Friday night at Madison Square Garden, the Dallas Mavericks, are 4-1 despite being down their best player Dirk Nowitzki. Much like the Knicks, the Mavericks have rode some red-hot shooting to get off to a good start. Dallas is second in the land in points-per-game with 108.4, while the Knicks are right on their heels at 104.7, third in the league. Even further, Dallas is the league's best 3-point shooting team (48.5%), the Knicks second (45.3%).
The offensive stats for both teams indicate that this could be a shootout, but the Knicks aren't exactly going to acquiesce to that. Through their three games, New York has only allowed just over 85 points per game, the lowest in the NBA. Yes, the Miami Heat had an off night and the Philadelphia 76ers were with Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson in their two games against the Knicks, but there's no question that the Knicks are playing good defense. When Carmelo Anthony is your leading rebounder and his biggest highlight of the early season is him diving all-out into the stands on the defensive end of the floor, you know you're doing something right.
Anthony's defense, rebounding and intensity has actually taken some of the focus off the Knicks' so far very efficient offense. Anthony, as expected, is leading the way, but the entire roster is chipping in as well. Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton have worked well in the back court together, as the Knicks have consistently moved the ball well on offense. J.R. Smith has done what coaches always knew he could but weren't sure if he would, which is play hell-bent off the bench and provide secondary scoring. Even the offensively-challenged Ronnie Brewer has shot well.
The Knicks will be tasked with trying to slow down O.J. Mayo, who has taken over a lot of the scoring load with Nowitzki injured. Mayo is averaging 21.6 points a game so far this season, a six-point spike from his career average. Newly-acquired point guard Darren Collison has fit seamlessly into Rick Carlisle's offense, dishing out assists at a clip he never reached in Indiana.
The Knicks and Mavericks are very similar teams at this early point in the season. They both shoot it very well, play good defense and are very deep. Without Nowitzki though, the Knicks have the best player between the two teams in Anthony. Often times that's enough to get you through in an NBA regular season game. If it is, the Knicks will hold their spot atop the NBA for a little bit longer.