That the New York Knicks' winning streak came to a halt against just about the worst team the Knicks had played in the Jeremy Lin era -- the New Orleans Hornets -- is a stark reminder that for all of the club's new energy, it's still slotted well below the conference's two elite squads. In other words, the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat aren't losing to the Hornets. (Please ignore the Bulls' loss to the New Jersey Nets on Saturday; it belies the point we're trying to make.) The Hornets are a smart, energetic defensive team, and a turnover machine like Lin is like a feast for those defenders.
The unfortunate thing for New York is that the very best teams are like that, too. The Philadelphia 76ers will confused a young point guard with defensive schemes, the Bulls are legendary in their resistance and the Heat have the most athletic wing defense this side of ... well, of Philadelphia. The Dallas Mavericks, New York's foe on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, ABC) can cause these problems as well. The Mavericks are No. 7 in the league in turnover creation, taking the ball away on 15 percent of opponent possessions.
Any Mavericks steals tend to come from Jason Kidd or Delonte West, but the latter is out with a busted ring finger. Kidd will likely draw primary coverage of Lin, the pick-and-roll wizard who has captured the world's attention, though Rodrigue Beaubois, a lightning fast Frenchman, could be an early option. Kidd will likely try to be physical with Lin, getting up into the point guard and forcing him to drive into the teeth of the Dallas defense, which ... well, it has Brendan Haywood!
Lin will share attention with former Mav Tyson Chandler, who left Dallas after the team's championship last season to sign with the Knicks, and three potential additions to New York's rotation: Carmelo Anthony (back from injury), Baron Davis and J.R. Smith. Davis hasn't played this season due to a back injury, an elbow injury and who knows what else. Smith signed with the club this week after his Chinese team's season ended.
But in the end, all eyes will be on Lin. After faltering on Friday, he faces a tougher task with a bigger spotlight -- that of national TV. Let's see how he responds.