Note from Kirk: This was published last night prior to the Raptors-Thunder game where Kyle Lowry sprained his ankle. I would edit the post, but I really like talking about him, so you're stuck reading information which might be useless until the next Raps-Mavs game on Dec. 14th.
The Dallas Mavericks (3-1) match up in the final game of a three game home stand against the Toronto Raptors (1-3). The Raptors are playing the second game of a back to back and fourth game in five nights. The Mavericks hope to put an exclamation point on their first home stand of the season, after having recently pummeled both the Charlotte Bobcats and the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Raptors entered the off-season hoping to entice Canadian Steve Nash to play out his twilight years as a Raptor, signing Landry Fields in an attempt to sway Nash their way. When Nash was instead traded to the Lakers, the Raptors front office quickly rebounded trading for Kyle Lowry from the Houston Rockets. If you've not had the pleasure of seeing Lowry play this season, he's fantastic. There's a hashtag on basketball twitter, #KLOE, which stands for Kyle Lowry Over Everything. He makes you a believer with his aggressive play style. Prior to the Tuesday night matchup against the Thunder, Lowry posted averages of 24-7-7, and nearly 4 steals a game; for a six foot tall guard, that's amazing. Heck for anyone that's amazing. In the first round of this year's draft Toronto selected shooting guard Terrance Ross from the University of Washington. The Raptors also took one of my favorite players from the college ranks in Baylor's Quincy Acy. Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas, selected in the 2011 draft, also joined the team this year. The Raptors return with veterans Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, and Jose Calderon.
The Mavericks match up reasonably well on paper against the Raptors. After doing an excellent job on Damian Lillard Monday, Darren Collison has an even greater challenge in Lowry. Keeping Lowry out of the paint and off the boards is the Mavs main concern Wednesday night; as Lowry goes, so do the Raptors. O.J. Mayo projects very well against fellow USC Trojan DeMar DeRozan. With Shawn Marion out for at least the next three games, it will be interesting to see who gets the start at small forward. Vince Carter has indicated he likes coming off the bench, which leaves either Jae Crowder or Dahntay Jones. I'd prefer Crowder but I expect Jones to get the start. One of the Mav strengths to this point has been the lack of offensive drop off when Carlisle has to sub out his starters. Crowder staying in a reserve role fits this pattern as the Mavs look to stay above water without Dirk. I expect Brand to match up against Valanciunas, as he seems to get the tough job of the best offensive post player for the Mavs opponent each and every night. Either Wright or Kaman will then get to try to cover Bargnani, who loves the perimeter. I'm actually enjoying Kaman coming off the bench for the time being. Dallas has been so solid on offense and have worn their last two opponents down with their relentless attack. The Mavericks also boast a deeper bench.
Rebounding, as per the usual, will be big focus. The Raptors actually get fewer rebounds per game than Dallas so far, but as I've mentioned on twitter every fifteen minutes to anyone who will listen, over the last 4 games Dallas has given up 18 offensive rebounds per game. That is unsustainable. Dallas has managed to shoot 57% from the floor in their three victories and that torrid pace is bound to cool off at some point. When that happens, unless the team gets a handle on second chance opportunities, Dallas is going to lose some games. Collison is the engine that drives Dallas, though Mayo leading the league in three point makes and confidence might be getting all the attention. How the team fairs without stalwart Marion is a huge question mark. He does so many little things, from moving without the ball, to getting a hand on loose balls, to simply swinging the ball around the key on offense. Pushing the pace and keeping the pressure on offensively should wear down a team that simply has less talent from top to bottom when compared to Dallas. Expect former Mav assistant Dwane Casey to get maximum effort from his players, but unless Dallas runs into serious shooting problems or gets killed on the boards, the Mavs should be 4-1 when heading to New York on Friday.
Look for my Q&A with Raptors HQ Wednesday around lunch time!
*It is unknown at this time as to whether Roddy Beaubois will play Wednesday night. He went through the walk through Sunday, so he should suit up barring another set back.