Danilo Gallinari (right) drives by Brian Cardinal (left, in yellow) during last night's Mavericks-Knicks game at Madison Square Garden.

About Last Night...

Morning, all.  Got home late last night, fired up the ol’ NBA League Pass Broadband – great product, by the way – and jotted down a few game notes on the back of an unopened envelope from my bank.  I won’t lose it now – it has important stuff written on the back!  Here are my thoughts from last night as they happened:

  • Brian Cardinal needs a pair of tarmac wands to wave Gallinari on through.
  • Mozgov’s first trips down the floor show us how the rest of this season is probably going to go: he hesitates to step up to a driving Terry, then tries for a block and misses by about four feet, taking himself out of rebounding position and giving up a second opportunity.  Then he absolutely burns Haywood down the floor for an easy alley-oop.
  • Shawne Williams has three fouls in nine minutes.  Put it this way: if LeBron makes a few shots and decides to involve his teammates once in a while, no one is breathing a word about what great defense he’s playing.
  • My notes on Bully Walker tonight: “Look at Bully get on the deck!” “Bully’s dribble drive game was like Shawne’s defense and unlike Shawne’s trips to jail: one and done;” “Why was Bully left in so long in the second quarter while Turiaf sat?” “Bully’s motor is running, doesn’t want to be traded.”  Pretty much running the gamut there.
  • Is that Gallo orchestrating the offense from the top of the key?  The one guy who can use a screen and won’t take a terrible shot?  It’s like a dream come true.
  • Mike Breen: “Dirk said Tyson Chandler is the most positive guy he’s ever been around in his life.”  And Dirk’s from Germany, folks.  They know positivity.
  • I know Gallo is no Dirk, not yet, but note the difference in how these teams use those players.  When Dirk has the mismatch on Felton – which, if you missed the game, was whenever they wanted – Dallas immediately swings him the ball and lets him go to work.  When Gallinari gets the mismatch on Terry, they both get to watch Amar’e dribble straight into Tyson Chandler.  Stoudemire finished well in the first half and it wasn’t a huge issue; he then went cold in the third quarter but stayed stubborn, and the Knicks fell behind.  By now Gallo has established himself as the clear second option, and when that player has a mismatch, you simply have to get him the ball.
  • Readers of Jack McCallum’s excellent Seven Seconds or Less remember how sensitive Shawn Marion can be: sulking after wins where he played well but wasn’t interviewed as much as Nash and Stoudemire, thinking he’s a better player than he is, etc.  With that in mind I watched Marion play tonight and thought, How must he feel about riding the bench over Brian Cardinal?  He must be livid, right?  Is it too much to assume, knowing what we know about Marion, that something like this might affect his play?  He just looks like he’d rather be anywhere else.
  • Turiaf in to start the third quarter.  He’s not hurt, so where was he in the second quarter when the Knicks were getting killed on the glass with the starting lineup plus Bill Walker?
  • Stoudemire’s ball-watching on defense and under the glass tonight has been legen-…wait for it…-dary.  He could at least put his hands in the air to make me think he was trying to box out.
  • I think Gallo is trying for the all-time record for air balls by great shooters.  Did Larry Bird just toss in an air ball every two games to keep people guessing?
  • Shawne Williams is officially on dribbling restriction.
  • As always, a riveting three minutes from Anthony Randolph: gets taken off the dribble by Cardinal of all people, misses a layup and the tip-in, and then drains a three.
  • Andy Rautins is playing like he’s been smuggling Four Loko through Canadian backchannels.  I mean that in the nicest way possible.

What a strange game.  Overall I think both teams got roughly the same quality of looks, but Dallas shot very well, the Knicks shot poorly (6-23 3PT isn’t beating Dallas), and the rebounding difference made it a Mavs blowout.  So other than shooting, defense and rebounding, I thought they played ok!  Here are three positives and three negatives from tonight’s game.

Three Positives:

1)      Gallo’s star turn continues, and you can see it’s gradually becoming clear to his teammates that after Amar’e, he should be getting the ball.  Took them long enough to figure that out, but better late than never.

2)      Toney Douglas showed well once again tonight.  What I like is the increased dribble penetration: creating for others doesn’t come naturally to him, but getting into the lane shows he’s at least healthy enough to get to a spot on the floor where he may one day learn to facilitate.

3)      Maybe it’s the trade rumors, maybe they just want more burn, I don’t know – but the Knicks’ second unit has all engines running.  Walker is on the deck, Douglas is in the passing lanes, Moz and AR are getting weird, Shawne Williams…well, all he really does is shoot threes and foul people.  I guess Shandon Anderson would argue fouling takes effort, though.

Three Negatives:

1)      Picking up where we left off in the positives, I really hope we can lay to rest the myth of Shawne Williams: Lockdown Defender.  It’s just not so.  Also, Bill Simmons tweeted after the Shawne-Marvin Williams bout that “Shawne Williams is a starter on the ‘Don’t Eff with Him’ team.”  Which is funny, because I thought that team was reserved for people who could actually bench one rep at 185 lbs. at the draft combine.  If it’s my first night at Fight Club and it’s down to me and the 6’9” guy who weighs the same as I do, I’ll take my chances.

2)      Mozgov really showed us what a long way he has to go.  First off, if he puts up another 16-minute, one rebound performance, I may have to start calling him “Timofey Lopez.”  Just as important, however, is his decision-making in protecting the rim.  Multiple times tonight Timmy saw a man coming at him, hesitated to step up, and then belatedly tried to block it only to leave the rim open for an offensive rebound.  He’s like a nervous pedestrian inching his way out into the crosswalk, wondering if he should go, and by the time he finally gets up the nerve, the light is green and five cars are bearing down on him at 80 mph.

3)      Raymond Felton cannot seem to understand that he is in a shooting slump and that means he needs to adjust his shot selection.  14 field goal attempts, 11 from outside 15 feet.  I know he may be playing hurt, and he hasn’t penetrated the way he did before Christmas, but he seems determined to get his dozen shots up every night, better options be damned.

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