Knicks face tall task vs. surging Mavs

Two of the hottest teams in the NBA are set for battle this surging Dallas Mavericks at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks had their season-high seven-game winning streak come to an end with Friday's 89-85 defeat to the lowly New Orleans Hornets and Lin suffered his first loss as a starter (7 games). Lin has brought a surplus amount of energy to New York and is averaging 24.6 points per game in his previous eight. He had 26 points versus New Orleans, but committed a season-high nine turnovers. Lin has turned the ball over at least six times in each of the past five games.

"He scored 26 points," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said of Lin. "I don't know what you want him to have, 40?"

Amare Stoudemire also scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Tyson Chandler delivered 10 points and 11 boards for New York, which played its sixth straight game without superstar Carmelo Anthony because of a groin injury. 'Melo is averaging 22.3 ppg this season and many have speculated the former Syracuse star would destroy the chemistry Lin has provided upon his return to the floor.

"I know I'm not a selfish player. People around me know I'm not a selfish player," Anthony told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith. "I do everything I can to make people around me understand I'm not a selfish player."

Anthony could return as soon as Sunday against the Mavericks, but by no means are the Knicks going to rush him back into the lineup. Guard Baron Davis and newly-acquired swingman J.R. Smith may see action Sunday versus Dallas. New York had a four-game home winning streak stopped in the loss to New Orleans and is 8-8 as the host this season. It is five games off Philadelphia's pace in the Atlantic Division and will also welcome the Nets and Hawks to MSG.

Dallas has ripped off six straight wins and improved to 12-4 in the past 16 contests following Friday's 82-75 come-from-behind win at Philadelphia.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 24 of his 28 points in the second half and helped Dallas erase a 51-37 halftime deficit. He also had 12 rebounds and is averaging 24.3 points in his last eight games. Nowitzki needs one more block to become just the third player in league history with 1000-plus blocks and 1,000 or more three-pointers (Cliff Robinson, Rasheed Wallace). He has scored 20-plus points in seven of eight games after he recorded just one 20-point game in his previous 12.

Dominique Jones scored 12 points in a reserve role and Vince Carter chipped in 10 points for the Mavericks, who were without Jason Terry (personal reasons) and Delonte West (broken right ring finger) and outscored the Sixers by a 24-8 margin in the third quarter. Jason Kidd contributed nine points, nine rebounds and eight assists, helping Dallas to an 8-6 road record this season.

"I thought the key to the game tonight was our defense and Dominique Jones filling in for our three missing guards was really the difference," remarked Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle. "We allowed 24 points in the second half. They missed some shots but our guys were into it and right now that's our identity as a team. We are a defense first team."

Terry is listed as probable for today's game.

After visiting the Knicks at MSG, the defending champion Mavericks will return to Big D for a three-game homestand versus the Celtics, Lakers and Nets. Dallas swept a home-and-home series with the Knicks a season ago and has won 10 of the last 11 matchups between the teams. It has also won five straight and eight of its last nine at New York.

The last time New York defeated Dallas at the Garden was Jan. 11, 2006 behind three 20-point performances from Stephon Marbury (28), Eddy Curry (21) and Jamal Crawford (25). Stoudemire paced the Knicks with 28.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in two meetings against the Mavericks in 2010-11.