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Raptors vs. Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki is in the house

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Dirk Nowitzki is in town. The Raptors are on a 1-3 run. Let's try not to get nervous.

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The Mavericks are another one of those teams (along with the Hornets, Bulls and, uh, Kings?) the Raptors always seem to struggle against. No, I can't explain any of my reasoning on this--it's pure feelings.

Well, OK, there are numbers too. The Mavericks are currently middle of the pack in most regards. They're 20th in offensive rating, 13th in defensive rating, they rely on a 37 year old Dirk Nowitzki who can just barely run. Yet somehow Dallas sits at 15-12 in a weird Western Conference that currently seeds them fourth. I don't get it either. This is a team that finds time for Deron Williams, J.J. Barea, Devin Harris and Raymond Felton. They have Charlie Villanueva on their roster. I mean, this is just a murderer's row of guys who will get on your nerves. How do you explain any of it?

The Raptors are in a bit of a mini-slump right now. They really need to get DeMarre Carroll back in the lineup. They need Jonas Valanciunas around to punish teams for playing guys like JaVale McGee. And--I'll mention this in a lowered voice--Kyle Lowry has been struggling as of late. I don't know how to properly explain my feelings about all of this, but I know I don't feel great about it.

Into this anxiety steps the Mavericks, a team that always seems to be hanging around.

Before tip-off, check in on Dan Grant's preview for the game.

And think about what it means for the Raptors to rely on Patrick Patterson and Terrence Ross in their time of need with Daniel Hackett's thoughtful summary of their December.

Then, let's get to the comments.