NY Knicks vs. Mavericks: 3 key matchups in a heated game

Julius Randle, Kristaps Porzingis, Knicks. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Julius Randle, Kristaps Porzingis, Knicks. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
2 of 4
Luka Doncic, NY Knicks
Luka Doncic, NY Knicks (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

NY Knicks: Backcourt will be tested

If you’re playing the Dallas Mavericks, your focus will always be on their do-it-all wonder kid, Luka Doncic. The 22-year-old has already established himself as one of the best players in the NBA, and Tom Thibodeau will be throwing the kitchen sink at Doncic to contain him.

This is the first time the Knicks have played The Mavericks this season you know Thibodeau is going to be putting a lot of pressure on Doncic early in possessions. We’ve seen The Knicks deploy some double teams early in games against superstar point guards like Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry in an attempt to neutralize them. Get the ball out of their hands, let other players beat you.

This is by no means a foolproof plan – These are players who can make the right passes and beat double teams. We’ve seen how fast and precise the Knicks’ rotations on defense have been all season, so expect the team to frequently overload defenders shading towards Doncic. They want this game to be physical.

In terms of individual players who will be tasked with guarding Doncic, expect a mixed bag. It’s hard to say what Elfird Payton would be able to do well in guarding the taller Doncic. I expect Thibodeau to throw a lot of Reggie Bullock and RJ Barrett his way. Bullock has been tremendous in guarding outside shooting (Opponents are shooting just 29.6% from 3 when guarded by Bullock, -6.9% from their average) but has struggled to contain players going to the rim (Opponents are shooting 61.8% on two-pointers defended by Bullock, +8.5% above their average).

The Luka Doncic step-back 3-pointers are what make the highlight reels but make no mistake, he’s fearless going to the rim. Doncic is 2nd in the NBA in drives per game and when he gets to the rack, it’s hard to slow down The Mavericks’ offense. Keep the kid out of the paint.