Tonight, the Raptors host the surging Dallas Mavericks who have won 7 of their last 10 games with wins over the Grizzlies, the Bobcats, the Suns, the Hawks and the Pacers. They are 3 games above .500% right now and are .5 of a game out of 8th in the tough Western Conference. Having lost to the Nuggets in Dallas on Monday, they come into Toronto to start a short 2 game eastern swing, with the Nets hosting them on Friday, home to the Grizzlies again on Sunday, then they head out on a tough pre-Christmas tour of the West with games against the Trail Blazers, the Jazz and Clippers. They are looking to Toronto to be the start of a push back up the ladder in the West.
The Raptors are coming into the game with the memory of two stinging losses fresh in their minds losing to the Hornets on Sunday and the Nets on Monday. Both of those games the Raptors seemed to play aspects of the game well but could not play well in others and it cost them. Sunday, they were able to use their new defensive schemes to contain Chris Paul and hold him to 12 points and Peja Stojakovic was held to 10 points, but James Posey was left virtually alone all the time and scored 20 on 6/10 3 point shots and David West outplayed Chris Bosh scoring 29 points from the low post area. The Nets game was very much the same thing as they were forced to shoot and shot only 38.1% as a team, but when Ryan Anderson outscores Chris Bosh in the PF position, something is not right. Offensive rebounds allowed have become the team’s demise. The lack of rebounding coupled with a 0 – 14 shooting stretch in the 4th quarter allowed this game to get out of reach.
Tonight, the Raptors will be looking to Jermaine O’Neal and Andrea Bargnani to provide some solid work in the post as the Mavericks have been running a 3 guard offense and Eric Dampier averages only 6 points and 8 rebounds a game. Dirk Nowitzki leads this team with 26 points per game and with Jason Kidd on the floor, the duo looks to make sharp passes and find cutters and hit open shooters off dribble penetration which has been the weakest aspect of the Raptors defense all season. With Devean George and Jose Juan Barea on the floor, this Mavericks team looks to feed Nowitzki who is always happy to shoot.
Chris Bosh needs a break out game and tonight would be a good time to find it. With Jamario Moon or Joey Graham at the 3 spot, Chris should have the room he needs and if we can keep Dirk out of the paint, I like our chances. Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker as well as Roko Ukic should all have good nights as a group, but will need to continue to improve closing out on shooters on the perimeter. I think that this game will go a long way to revealing the character of this team and I hope the guys are up to it.