Tonight the Dallas Mavericks head north to take on the Toronto Raptors, looking to close out the two-game regular season series 2-0. The last time these teams met, the Mavericks were propelled to a 98-93 victory by J.J. Barea’s 20 points. The win kicked off the infamous four-game December winning streak for the Mavericks and snapped the Raptor’s own six-game streak.
The Mavericks again have the chance to interrupt a Raptors winning streak tonight, as Toronto looks for win number 10. A victory this evening would also start Dallas on a streak of its own and give the team a 4-1 record over the last five games.
Can we expect another win from the Mavericks tonight? Here are three things to watch for in tonight’s game.
During their December game against the Raptors, the Mavs won on the solid offensive performances of Barea, Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes, and Maxi Kleber, all of whom were in double digits for the night. But it was the lock-down defensive prowess of Wesley Matthews that may have been to thank for the win.
Matthews held Toronto’s leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan, to just eight points on 3-of-16 shooting. Unfortunately (since the team is apparently not tanking anymore? it’s tough to keep up), the Mavericks will be without Matthews for the remainder of the season, thanks to a fractured fibula. This may give the Raptors’ stellar offense (they’re tied with Houston and Minnesota for the second-highest offensive rating in the league) all the opportunity they need to torch the Mavericks.
Dorian Finney-Smith, who’s been recovering from a knee injury, played in Matthews’ stead against the Knicks on Tuesday. As our recapper noted, he may have looked rusty on offense, but he did put forth a strong defensive effort. Still, the Raptors are a much more formidable opponent than the Knicks. Will the Mavericks be able to pull off another upset to take the series?
As the Mavericks have tried to figure out whether they want to be bad or, like, really bad, the Toronto Raptors have slowly but surely overtaken the Celtics and all but locked down the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re currently 4.5 games ahead of Boston, and especially given the extent of Boston’s injuries down the final stretch of the season, they may not feel the need to to play with much urgency tonight. Still, even a coasting Raptors team will be a lot for the short-handed Mavericks to handle.
The Raptors will be at almost full-strength tonight, though rookie O.G. Anunoby has only recently returned following an ankle injury and may be limited or out during the second night of a back to back after getting the start against the Pacers last night. They’ll also be missing Norman Powell.
Just in case you’re still rooting for the Mavericks to lose in spite of themselves, you may want to root extra hard tonight. The Raptors should be able to take care of business, but half of Dallas’ remaining 14 games are against fellow lottery teams. Their draft lottery odds can’t really afford a win against the best of the East.
How to watch
Tonight’s game tips off at 6:30pm Central and can be seen on Fox Sports Southwest locally or on NBA League Pass outside of the Dallas area.