Mavs [22-46] at Raptors [51-17]: Preview & 3 keys to victory

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 26: Dirk Nowitzki
DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 26: Dirk Nowitzki /

The Mavericks hope to catch a tired Raptors team on the second night of a back to back. What’s worse for our team: it’s the first home game after a road trip.

The Dallas Mavericks visit Toronto for the only time in 2017-18. The Raptors, who coughed up one of their worst games of the season when the teams met in Big D on Boxing Day, shouldn’t need any pep talks to be ready.

The Mavs have recently been officially eliminated from playoff contention, although they were without hope weeks ago. They have little motivation other than pride and next year’s jobs to play hard. Even so, they have built a respectable 11th-ranked defense, allowing only 104.6 points per game [PG]. That’s helped them win three of their last four outings, so they shouldn’t be taken lightly. The Mavs are also better rested, having not played since Tuesday, while the Raptors just flew in from Indianapolis.

What I find surprising is Dallas’ lowly status as rebounders; they grab a mere 41.1 PG, which is tied for 25th. That offsets their excellent turnover rate of 11.9 PG, second in the league.

Elder statesman Dirk Nowitzki should be moved to the bench and used as a stretch-4. Instead he’s started all but one of their games, and is their second-best rebounder. Perhaps that’s a compliment to him, though I’d view it more as a reproof to their other big men. Harrison Barnes, probably their best player, leads his squad in points (OK) and rebounds (huh?) from the small forward spot.

Some young talent

Exceedingly long center Nerlens Noel will eventually be unleashed and become an impact player, I’ll wager. Watch for him tonight. Pesky little guard J.J. Barea always plays his best against the Raptors.

Their brightest hope comes from Dennis Smith Jr., their lottery pick from last summer. He’s a speedy, athletic point guard who will attack the paint. His jump shot is a work in progress. While he won’t get much love from Rookie of the Year voters until the bottom of the ballot, he looks to be a major contributor to their rebuild.

More from Raptors Rapture

Dwight Powell, a member of Canada’s national team, has pushed his way from second-round selection into a major role with hustle and smarts. He’s a force under the glass and can chip in some buckets on put-backs, though he’s not much at creating his own shot.

We won’t see useful swingman Wesley Mathews, as he’s recently suffered a broken leg.

Dallas’s bench won’t stay close to ours.

3 keys to Raptors victory

  1. Make some shots. I’m once again breaking my own rule about avoiding triteness to emphasize how simple the game can be when you shoot well. In that ugly December loss, Serge Ibaka and DeMar DeRozan combined to make 7 of 29 shots, including a donut on 6 tries from deep.
  2. Get the ball inside. The Mavs don’t have anyone who can challenge Jonas Valanciunas, unless they bring Saleh Mejri off the pine. He’s not even a sure thing to dress, due to an hamstring injury. If JV gets double-teamed, he can kick the ball out or dish it to a cutter.
  3. Use everyone. The pattern recently has been for the Raptors to take control late, because our best people aren’t gassed at crunch time. Hopefully the guys will still have something left in the tank despite the quick turnaround after the tough victory in Indiana.


This game won’t be a pushover. The Mavericks have been playing well, and are fresh. I hope we can find enough scoring to slip by them. That’s not a big ask, given their dubious offense.

Raptors 108 – Mavericks 101