The Mavericks finish up a four-game home stand tonight against the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors haven't exactly done too well in the AAC with their last win in Dallas coming on New Year's Eve eve of 1999. The new millennium has not been kind to the Raptors when they meet the Mavericks as Dallas has posted a 13-3 record against the Raptors since the 1990s ended. The Mavericks have also taken seven straight against Toronto.
The most recent highlight of the series was a 24-point come-from-behind overtime win over Toronto. It was the second largest comeback in franchise history only trumped by a 25-point comeback against Denver in 1994. However, the comeback against Toronto was more impressive as the Mavs' 24-point deficit crested in the middle of the third quarter, not at the end of the second quarter as the 1994 game did.
Dallas product Chris Bosh is undoubtedly the team's best player and should be looking for a few MVP votes this year depending on where Toronto finished during the regular season. He's off to a slow start this season averaging just under 17 points, 6.4 rebounds per game and 41.6 percent from the field--far below his averages 22.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and almost 50 percent from last season. It's obvious something isn't clicking for him and a relentless attack of double team collapses on him could disrupt him into a continued slump. It worked last night on Pau Gasol, and some occasional swarm help defense from Devin Harris or Jason Terry could help control Bosh also.
The Raptors will look to change their fortunes in Dallas with a smarter, more experienced squad than last year. A large part of their success can be attributed to coach Sam Mitchell who won Coach of the Year honors last season. Mitchell came a long way very fast in 2006-07. After being voted the worst coach in the NBA, Mitchell had new general manager Brian Colangelo come along and instill some confidence in the young coach, which obviously paid off. Mitchell has earned the respect of his team and isn't getting into scuffles with his players anymore, which is obviously a good thing.
From far away lands
The Raptors play their home games in another country, and many of their players hail from afar also. Andre Bargnani (Italy), Jorge Garbojosa (Spain), Jose Calderon (Spain), Carlos Delfino (Argentina) and former Spurs center Rasho Nesterovic (Slovenia) help anchor a diverse squad that has played well together despite their differences.
Chris Bosh may lead this team on the floor, but T.J. Ford runs the show. The Texas-ex is running full speed after being traded to Toronto in 2006 and is a pass-first point guard who is always looking to set up his teammates. He leads the team in assists at 8 per game and is the second leading scorer with 13.7 points per game. Reserve guard Jose Calderon fills in nicely when Ford heads to the bench and is averaging 6.2 assists.
First pick working out?
It looked like 2006's first overall pick Andrea Bargnani was primed for a breakout this season, but Mitchell has limited his minutes in the last four games from 21 to 16 to 5 and back up to 19 on Sunday's game against Golden State. Mitchell has been known to give Bargnani a hard time when he isn't doing what Mitchell wants, so it's unknown how much playing time he'll see tonight.
For the Mavericks...
The Mavericks should remember this team from last season, it didn't change very much. Toronto added six players last offseason, but none of them have been anything fantastic. Supposed marquee free-agent signing Jason Kapono has been the worst player on the team (of players who get 20 or more minutes per night ) and trade acquisition Carlos Delfino hasn't exactly been setting the world aflame either. If the Mavericks can successfully surprise Bosh with double teams as they did with Gasol last game and deny T.J. Ford penetration, they'll be in good shape. They must also remember to protect the perimeter as the Raptors are third in the league in three pointers made and are first place in three-point percentage. Once guys like Anthony Parker, Bargnani and Delfino start heating up, they can carry a lot of momentum with them and close leads before you can say "put a hand in his face."
-Scooter Hendon, Hoops Nerd