Dallas (54-11) has won eight of its last nine meetings with New York (30-36) overall, outscoring the Knicks by an average of 17.2 points in the victories. The Mavericks, though, lost their last trip to New York, 117-115 in overtime on Jan. 11, 2006.
Dirk Nowitzki has been key for the Mavs against the Knicks, averaging 27.7 points and 8.9 rebounds in the last seven games between the teams.
Nowitzki came up big again Sunday, scoring 21 of his 28 points in the second half and grabbing 12 total rebounds to lead Dallas to a 92-88 win over Detroit - the team with the best record in the East - to open a season-long six-game road trip.
“I had good looks, but I had a couple go in and out, so I wanted to stay aggressive,” said Nowitzki, who made 9 of 12 shots in the second half after going 2-for-8 from the floor in the first 24 minutes. “My team has a lot of confidence in my ability, so I just hung with it.”
The six-time All-Star power forward has elevated his play in the last three games, averaging 29.3 points and 13.3 rebounds in that stretch.
Nowitzki’s superb play this season has helped the Mavericks already clinch a playoff spot, and establish a 4 1/2-game lead on Phoenix for the top seed in the West.
“This is a hell of a win,” Mavericks swingman Jerry Stackhouse said after Sunday’s game. “We’ve got a long trip ahead of us, and we need to get some momentum from this.”
Meanwhile, the Knicks look to build on a 92-74 Sunday victory over the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors. Stephon Marbury scored 21 points, while rookie Renaldo Balkman made all seven of his shots from the field and finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
“I love what I’ve seen from Renaldo the whole year,” Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said of Balkman, who was a highly criticized 20th overall selection in June’s NBA draft. “Defensively he can change the game, his rebounding. Whenever we give him 30-plus minutes, he normally has double-figure rebounds and double-figure points. He’s just a guy that somehow finds a way to change a game.”
Balkman is primarily a reserve for the Knicks and is averaging 4.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in 58 games. When he plays 23 minutes or more, though, Balkman has been solid, averaging 8.6 points and 8.8 rebounds in 12 games.
“I get the guys going and that’s what I want to do,” Balkman said. “I might go out there and get one rebound or I might not even score a basket.”
New York is one-half game behind Indiana and New Jersey for the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
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