DALLAS — Wednesday was always going to be reunion night. But it also became turn-back-the-clock night and future stars night wrapped into one wildly entertaining basketball game in a fight to the buzzer between a pressing Dallas team dying to look respectable and a surging Knicks team bearing down on the club’s best start in 40 years.
As for the reunion, the Knicks started more players from the Mavericks’ 2011 title team than the Mavs did. Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd ripped their old team, with both scoring season-highs and combining for almost half the Knicks’ fourth-quarter points in what fell short of becoming another one of those magical, team-binding victories they weaved a week ago a bit farther south in San Antonio.
With his pal Dirk Nowitzki injured and wearing a blue sport coat on the Mavs’ bench, Kidd, 39, wasn’t booed by the Dallas fans, but he was outdone by his old two-time teammate with the Nets and Mavs, 35-year-old Vince Carter. His clock dialed back to Vinsanity as he matched Kidd’s five 3s, attacked the rack and finished with 25 points, his best output since March 30, 2011 with Phoenix.
And the new kids Dallas brought in to run the backcourt after Kidd stunned Mark Cuban and back-doored his way out of Dallas and to New York, ran circles around the Knicks’ defenders. O.J. Mayo kept Dallas hanging, led a third-quarter surge and posted 27 points. Recently maligned point guard Darren Collison served up a timely rebound effort of 19 points and seven assists, with no turnovers in the second half.
Kidd’s aging legs couldn’t keep up with the Mavs’ two penetrating 25-year-olds, and Kidd, afterward with a grimy bandage still stuck to his head hiding those seven stitches, wasn’t exactly pleased when asked for his scouting report on Dallas’ duo that replaced him and Jason Terry: “I’m done with the Mavericks. It doesn’t have anything to do with me, does it?”
But beyond the bursting box score of season-best performances, Dallas’ 114-111 victory, preventing the Knicks from reaching nine wins in their first 10 games for the first time since 1972-73, the latter being the year Kidd was born, came down to one play, 24 seconds, mano-a-mano.
Carmelo Anthony, the dynamic scorer hailed as a new man, a company man vs. Shawn Marion, who at 34 inexplicably remains one of the league’s most underrated defensive gems and is proving himself as a no-excuses leader keeping the revamped Mavs above water as the face of the franchise sits.
The Knicks trailed 102-90 with six minutes to play, but whittled Dallas’ lead all the way down to 112-111. Timeout. Knicks ball. Shot clock off.
Raymond Felton dribbled up top, wasting away 11 seconds as the Knicks’ other players spread the floor, the Matrix crouched in front of Melo at the left wing.
“I knew that he (Marion) would get through the screen,” Chandler said. “And I was just debating whether or not I should come get a pick-and-roll and try to get him off of Melo.”
Chandler didn’t come and Marion knew what was to come.
“Didn’t we all?” Marion said, laughing. “It is what it is.”
Felton swung it to Carmelo, who sized up Marion. Melo drove to his left, Marion bolted in lockstep, Melo stepped back, rose up off one foot, double-clutched in mid-air and sent up a wobbly attempt that never had a prayer. Buzzer. Game over.
“He played excellent defense,” Chandler said of the Mavs’ premier perimeter stopper on their run to the ’11 championship. “His quick hands forced Melo into some tough shots.”
Having received an early MVP campaign push from Chandler before the game, Anthony started slowly with four points in the first half, came through with eight in the fourth-quarter comeback, but stymied on the final shot, finished with 23 points on 7-of-16 shooting.
Melo dealt with Marion — still feeling the effects of a sprained left knee that sidelined him for five games including Anthony’s 31 in the Knicks’ win over Dallas two weeks ago — for 34 of his 41 minutes on the floor.
The final 24 seconds proved the toughest.
“Make him take a tough shot,” Marion said of his last stand. “I did the only thing you can do; there ain’t much you can do. When you’re in that situation, the heat of the game, you want to make the guy take a tough shot if he can get a shot off.”