At 4-19 and off to one of their worst starts in recent memory, Dwane Casey will look to remain competitive against a streaking Dallas team that has won four of their last six games. In a game where both the Raptors and the Maverick will have to overcome a slew of injuries that have plagued the early parts of their season, neither team will be at full strength by tip off and will have to rely on a short bench.
Of course one of the main storylines of the night will be the return of Vince Carter as the former Raptor will be making yet another infamous appearance at the Air Canada Centre. As always, I'm sure Raptors fan will be vocal every time he touches the ball, it will be interesting to see how the former Dino plays against his old team. Carter has been known to play very well against his former squad since he was traded back in 2004, he only managed 10 points in almost 20 minutes when he played the Raptors at this time last year. On a separate note, I came across a CBC article that talks about what could have been if Toronto had not dealt their budding superstar. While I do not completely agree with the article, it got me thinking about the possibility and is certainly worth a read.
In addition to the usual suspects (Landry Fields and Alan Anderson) - the Raptors will once again be without their two leading scorers as Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry are expected to miss yet another game with respective elbow and triceps injuries. Couple that with the fact that OJ Mayo is playing some of the best basketball of his career and it appears that the raptors will be in for a long time.
Here are three things to look out for in tonight's matchup.
Ed Davis: After becoming a the odd man out at the beginning of the season and seeing his role on the team fade into irrelevancy, Ed Davis could be in for a monster game as the former Tar Heel is coming off of a pair of impressive outings. Not only did Davis flash the potential that Raptors fans have been waiting to see against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday - scoring 24 points and grabbing 12 rebounds - but the former first round draft pick proved that he could be counted on to contribute in an offense that has failed to eclipse 100 points in four straight games With both Lowry and Bargnani seemingly unavailable for this one, Davis will need to be heavily involved in the offensive game plan if the Raptors hope to upset the 2011 NBA champions.
Spread the Ball Around: This related back to my last point as without Lowry and (as much as it kills me to say it) Bargnani, the Raptors lack a player that can carry the team's load offensively. With that being said, the Mavs do have one of the worst five defenses in the NBA as they allow an average of 101 points per night. Although a starting lineup of Amir Jonson, Jose Calderon, Demar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Mikael Pietrus does not exactly strike fear into the hearts of their opponents, spreading the ball around and being patient offensively may help the Dinos salvage a win. The Raptors will not win this game playing frustrated and brash basketball but if they can take their time on offense, eat the clock and wait for their shots, this could be more of a nail biter than most people think.
Shut Down Vince Carter: This point is twofold as shutting down the most hated player Raptors nation could lead to both an actual and moral victory. On one side, Carter has been extremely productive - 12.5 points per game - in the wake of Dirk Nowitzki's absence, as the 35-year-old shooting guard becomes the team's top scoring option whenever he comes off the bench. While he does play and average of 23.9 minutes per game, limiting Dallas' possession would put a large dent into Carter's productivity which would almost certainly help keep the Mavs to double digits and keep the game within reach. On the other side, if the Raptors get blown out -which given how this season is going is quite possible - send VC back to Dallas with a poor performance can help make a tough (or embarrassing) loss more tolerable for Raptors fans. Either way it's a win win in a season that to date has been forgettable.