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3 things to watch as the Mavericks visit the Raptors

The Mavs will hit the road for the first time in five games.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks (28-37) will take on the Raptors (38-28) in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre on tonight. This is the first time that the Mavs have played outside of Dallas since March 1, when they lost to the Hawks in Atlanta.

After a pretty successful home stand, during which the Mavericks went 4-1, there will be an expectation to continue the momentum and keep the wins coming. Taking down a good Raptors team on their home turf will be a great opportunity to do just that.

This is the first time these two teams will go at it this season, with one more matchup coming up on March 25 in Dallas. Here’s some things to watch for tonight.

The Raptors are in a rough patch

The Raptors, who will be looking to make a deep run come playoff time, will be desperately trying to stop a two game slide, after taking losses to the Hawks and the Heat. Unfortunately for Toronto, they will still be without all-star guard Kyle Lowry who underwent wrist surgery at the end of February, and is likely out for another two to three weeks.

Wesley Matthews will show up

I’m calling it now: Matthews is going to have a game that shakes off the rust and gets him back into his grove. Wes has posted double-digit scoring in only two of his last eight games and has been noticeably off during that stretch. In those eight games, he has averaged 9.3 points and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 31.3 percent (29.3 from three-point range).

Matthews was forced to miss two games recently because of a hip issue, and this could be the reason for his play of late. Wes is not the type of player who would make excuses his play, especially injury, but we can only hope that his slump will take a turn for the better with more time.

Please prove me right, Wes.

Jonas Valanciunas could go off

There could be a couple of possible scenarios at play here with the Toronto Raptors big man. The first is Valanciunas going up against Dirk Nowitzki and Salah Mejri all night and having a field day while doing so. The Mavs have struggled with big men in the past when most of the minutes at center go to Dirk and Salah, however the Mavs have since acquired an x-factor in Nerlens Noel who could potentially suit up after missing a couple of games due to knee soreness.

If the Mavs are able to count on Noel, then we might just see a second scenario unfold in which he starts and is able to match up well with Valanciunas. Noel is still finding his feet with his new team, however he has already given us a couple of big games which haven been really encouraging and also given us glimpses of the sort of player he might develop into as the Mav’s main center going forward.

Keeping Valanciunas quiet is going to be key to winning this game, as the Mavs will also have to deal with Serge Ibaka playing at the power forward spot next to him. With Kyle Lowry out, the raptors offense has lost some of its firepower at point guard, which could give a lot of opportunity to their bigs.

How to watch

You can catch the game on Fox Sports Southwest (or NBA League Pass outside of the Dalas area) at 6:30pm Central. Follow along with us to catch all of our game coverage!