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Mavericks Offense Sputters Without Nowitzki, Lose to Raptors 84-76

The Dallas Mavericks had their first full game of the season without Dirk Nowitzki and the offense looked lost.  The spacing wasn't there and the team didn't really play as a team.  "Without the big fella stretching the floor, things are a little different out there," said Tyson Chandler.  The Toronto Raptors, short-handed on their own as they missed several key players, were able to take advantage of the adjusting Mavericks and did enough to take the 84-76 victory over the Mavericks.

"We’ve got to have help from a lot of different places," Carlisle said in his pregame address to the media. "And balance is one of our calling cards as a team. So, we’re gonna need it again tonight."  The balance department was lacking as a whole as only three Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Jason Terry with 18 points. 

To say the Mavericks had a rough start would be an understatement.  In the first quarter, the Mavericks had more turnovers (7) than field goal makes (4).  Dallas shot 20% from the field and matched a season-low for points in a quarter with 13.  They had 13 points in the first quarter in the game against the Chicago Bulls on 11/19.  The seven turnovers matched a season-worst for the first quarter. "We had a lot of turnovers in the first quarter," said Coach Rick Carlisle.  "I thought we were in too much of a 'try and make things happen' mode and not enough trusting the team and the system and really working together." 

Shawn Marion was inserted into the starting lineup due to Dirk Nowitzki sitting out and he was the most effective Maverick during that rough stretch.  Marion had 8 of the 13 first quarter points but he was only able to finish with 12 points.

Dallas was able to get things going in the second quarter with a 12-2 run to get back into the game.  The charge was led primarily by the bench.  Despite the surge to tie the game back up at 25-all, Toronto countered with a 14-2 run of their own to regain a comfortable double-digit lead.  Caron Butler came alive in the second quarter to keep the Mavericks back in the mix.  He scored 10 points in the second quarter on 5-8 shooting.  As a team, the Mavericks improved by shooting 12-19 (63%) from the field in the second quarter as they were able to pull within 6 points, 46-40, at halftime.

The Mavericks were unable to take advantage of  the 7-0 run they had to end the second quarter as Toronto started the second half with their own 7-0 run.  "We made runs, but we could never get anything consistently established," Carlisle said.  "I think that's a credit to how well (Toronto) played."  Rookie Ed Davis, Leandro Barbosa and Amir Johnson led the charge for the Raptors as they combined to score 16 of the 18 points for the Raptors.  Ed Davis finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 3 block shots - all season highs. 

Despite the Mavericks holding the Raptors to 18 points, it wasn't enough to prevent the Raptors' lead going to the fourth quarter.  Jason Terry was primed to lead the charge in the fourth quarter as he started the fourth 3-4 with 7 points but he was unable to do anything else after that.  Terry finished the game with 18 points, 4 rebounds and six assists.  Dallas had more depth on the bench compared to the Raptors but the Mavericks' bench was outscored 39-37.

Taking away the 27 points in the second quarter, the Mavericks scored 49 points in the remaining quarters.  Toronto didn't have a standout quarter in terms of scoring, but when you taking into account the 38 points in the paint the Raptors were able to score, that spelled doom for the Mavericks.  38 points is quite a bit in that department but that's actually below the season average for points in the paint allowed by  the Mavericks.  Dallas came in to tonight's match-up allowing 40.2 points in the paint.   What was the weapon that allowed the Raptors easy access into the lane? "Their penetration," said Tyson Chandler.  "They have some quick guards that kept getting into the paint and they were able to dump it off to the big guys, they were able to finishing at the rim." 

Despite the struggles in the defeat, Rick Carlisle was unwilling to allow the absence of Dirk Nowitzki to be the sole reason for the loss. "To get into that would be making excuses, and I don't think that's appropriate," Carlisle said.  "We just weren't good enough."  The Mavericks will need to improve and do so quickly as they face the best the league has to offer.  The rival San Antonio Spurs come to town on Thursday night for the final game of 2010.


Quick Notes:

- The was the first game of the year that the Mavericks had to play without Dirk Nowitzki.  In this decade, Dirk has always played at least 76 games a year. When he plays, Dallas wins 67.6 percent of its games.   When the big German misses games, Dallas wins 58.6 percent of its games.  Rick Carlisle didn't automatically rule Nowitzki out of Thursday's big game against the Spurs.  We will just have to wait and see.

- The victory for the Raptors marked nearly 11 years to the day for the last time that the Toronto Raptors won in Dallas.  The last win for the Raptors in Dallas was December 30, 1999.  With the win, that only leaves the New Jersey Nets and the Charlotte Bobcats as the lone teams that haven't won at the American Airlines Center. 

- Rick Carlisle wished for good health for Christmas, but the injuries are starting to mount.  Caron Butler can now be added to the list of Mavericks nursing injures.  The forward left the American Airlines Center with his right hand heavily wrapped. He said he injured the ring and pinkie fingers on his shooting hand during Monday's win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. reports that Caron will be fine but the Mavericks can't afford to have the injuries pile up.