What have the Raptors (20-20) done lately?
Toronto comes into tonight's game on a two-game losing streak, after blowing winnable games against the Lakers and the Bobcats. Before this recent stumble, they had been one of the hottest teams in the NBA, with a 14-6 record since trading Rudy Gay to the Kings. Moving Gay was addition by subtraction, since his ball-stopping antics had prevented DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Kyle Lowry from getting going, as well as addition by addition, since they turned him into an excellent three-man bench -- Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Johnny Salmons.
What happened the first time they played the Mavs?
The Raptors were in Dallas a little over a week after the Gay deal, pulling out an 109-108 thriller in OT. All five of their starters had at least 15 points, as they pretty much were able to get whatever they wanted against the Mavs defense. The good news is that the reverse held true as well, with Dirk Nowitzki, Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis combining to score 66 points. If there's a concern offensively, it was the play of Dejuan Blair, who struggled against the length and athleticism of the Toronto front-line, with only 4 points and 4 rebounds in 21 minutes.
What's the biggest match-up to watch?
For Dallas, the concern always begins in the middle, especially when they are going up against a front-line with as much size and athleticism as the Raptors. Jonas Valanciunas (6'11 230) and Amir Johnson (6'9 210) aren't the most skilled duo in the world, but they are big and athletic bodies who can bang on the glass and get out and run. If Sam Dalembert is out, the Mavs will need a team effort to keep the Raptors big men in check. Their best hope might be to get them in foul trouble, since the Dallas big men match-up better with guys like Patterson, Chuck Hayes and Tyler "Psycho T" Hansbrough.
Which Maverick player might be due for a big game?
Brandan Wright had a very strong performance against them in December, with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks in 26 minutes of action. As we discussed earlier, the Raptors second-unit doesn't have much athleticism upfront, with Hayes, Hansbrough and Patterson all undersized and floor-bound. If Wright plays with enough energy, he should be able to run and jump his way into another 13-6 performance, at a minimum.