The Toronto Raptors hit the toughest road trip of their season, starting with tonight’s game in Big D. Given that their next two opponents are the scary-good Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, this match represents their best chance to steal a win. The Mavs are nobody’s idea of a pushover, however, so the Raps can’t afford any passengers. This game will be the sternest test yet for coach Dwane Casey’s extended rotation, featuring the former Kings.
The Mavs have no fewer than three ex-Raps: Jose Calderon, Shawn Marion and some Carter guy. The first two are starting tonight, Marion as the do-everything small forward, and Jose as the unselfish passer and highly successful 3-point shooter. Tell me once more, Bryan Colangelo, ’cause I can’t grasp it – why did we get rid of those two? Monta Ellis, a smallish shooting guard, can put up tons of points in a hurry, from anywhere. Dirk Nowitzki is having another huge season, cementing his reputation as the best-shooting big man ever to palm a basketball. Journeyman DeJuan Blair is listed as the fifth starter, but I’m sure we’ll see a lot of the erratic Haitian-Canadian centre, Samuel Dalembert. His scoring isn’t worrisome, but he’s a fine rim protector.
Dallas seems comfortable with the notion of playing to outscore, rather than out-defend, their opponent. They have the personnel to play that way, so it’s a sound strategy. In order to have a chance, the Raps will need to:
- Hit their open shots. Duh. Terrence Ross will get another chance as the starter, but can ill afford a third straight off-night from outside. The Raps will be blown out early if they don’t take advantage of the open looks they’re going to receive. Jose’s defensive limitations are well-known, so look for Kyle Lowry to penetrate and dish to TR or DeMar DeRozan.
- Get the ball inside. Another Duh. Jonas Valanciunas should be able to score a ton against Dallas’ ragged interior defense. Marion will likely double-team JV, so he’ll need to be ready to find cutters like Amir Johnson for short passes.
- Deny Dirk the ball. Sure, Brian, and let’s ask for Landry Fields to turn into Michael Jordan overnight while we’re at it. Bear with me – it’s very difficult, but possible, to keep the ball out of his hands by fronting him, double-teaming him, or going zone. He’s the fulcrum of their offense; if he doesn’t get his touches except under duress, we can throw off their timing.
The Mavericks are 11-2 at home to this point, so a win by the Raps would be a serious upset. That loss to the ‘Cats was bad news, and I think it will affect our team. Dallas will need to work, but will top Toronto 106-102.
Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.
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