Starting 5: Unhappy returns

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Every morning, we will give you five things from the night before in the NBA to start your day.

1: From downtown

Darren Abate/AP/CT TimesDirk Nowitzki surprised everyone when he came out for pregame warmups and played his first game of the season. At long last the Mavericks were going to have a complete team. Nowitzki played only 20 minutes but scored eight points on 3-for-4 shooting and grabbed six rebounds.

It was a nice return.

Except for the result. That sucked a lot for the Mavericks. A whole lot. Dirk even said so afterward.

San Antonio hit 20 3-pointers including seven from Danny Green in San Antonio's 129-91 win over Dallas on Sunday night. Who said the Spurs did not have an interesting offense?

The 20 3-pointers were the most San Antonio has made in franchise history and just the 13th game in San Antonio's illustrious history where the team has hit 15 or more 3-pointers. Ironically, all have happened in the Tim Duncan era. Six have occurred in the last three seasons.

The Spurs also scored 100 points through three quarters and did not have fewer than 29 points in any quarter of this game. The Mavericks simply could not keep up. Or defend the 3-point line.

If that is not a sign of how much Gregg Popovich has changed San Antonio's offense, then the team's perception is beyond repair.

2: Melo takes over

Kathy Kmonicek/AP/Stamford AdvocateCarmelo Anthony has transformed himself into an MVP candidate this year with the way he has led the Knicks on both ends of the floor.

Anthony scored 19 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter for New York as the team came from behind to score a 94-91 victory over Minnesota on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. The game was not without controversy as Minnesota was crying foul late with Anthony's ability to simply score at will.

Of course, the real key to the game was not merely Anthony's heroics but also Minnesota's lack of execution. The Wolves, playing without Kevin Love mind you, scored only 36 points in the second half. Hardly the way to hold on to a second half lead against one of the East's best teams on the road.

That just will not get the job done.

Minnesota ended up shooting 40.5 percent from the floor and committed 17 turnovers. With the way the Knicks can play when they are going at full tilt, that is not going to do it for this hopeful team.

For New York, though, it was a nice win against a spunky team. One of those gutsy performances where the superstar player is given the space to save the day. J.R. Smith had 19 points and Tyson Chandler scored 16 with nine rebounds.

The Knicks are still a strong defensive team and that is where they have won and lost games this season. Anthony though is still the fulcrum. Chandler is the defensive anchor, Anthony the offensive anchor. And when he turned it on Sunday, it was game over. Despite the deficit.

3:  HIGHLIGHTS!!!

Hits, give them to us

Jason Thompson under the rim

Joe Johnson from deep

4: Line of the Night: Nikola Pekovic — 21 points, 17 rebounds

The legend of Nikola Pekovic continues to grow. Even in a losing effort and without Kevin Love in the lineup, Pekovic came up big and put in some incredible numbers. They were, well, Love-like. Pekovic is showing that his season last year, a year he probably should have won Most Improved Player, was no fluke and that he is a center that deserves the league's attention.

5:  You can quote me on that

Nights like this, you’ve got to press your luck. Play the lottery. Go to the carnival, and play every game they’ve got

-Spurs guard Danny Green

Ever since I got here last year, we've been trying to break down barriers. It's one of those things where it doesn't mean too much, but it's something nice to have in the back of your head going into the game.

-Clippers guard Chris Paul on the Clippers' franchise-best 13-game win streak

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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