Raps (9-14) @ Dallas Mavericks (15-10) - 3 keys to a good showing

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.

Dec 18, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) grabs a rebound against the Memphis Grizzlies at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

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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Tags: Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki Jose Calderon Toronto Raptors

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