To give you some perspective here, the last time the Raptors faced the Mavericks, the team from Dallas employed Zaza Pachulia, Raymond Felton, Deron Williams, Chandler Parsons and our old friend Charlie Villanueva. Dirk Nowitzki had fewer than 30,000 points in his career. It was December 22, 2015. A lot has happened.
As it stands now, the Mavs are a mere 2.5 games out of the 8th seed. Dirk has crossed the 30K barrier, putting him in a company with five other beings in human history. (Six if you count Doctor J’s ABA run.) And the franchise fleeced Philly for young centre Nerlens Noel, whose career is finally on the upswing, but who may also sit tonight with knee soreness. The Raptors will also get to meet for the first time dudes like Yogi Ferrell and Dorian Finney-Smith. (Also, former Raptors 905-er Jarrod Uthoff is on this team now!)
For the Raptors, well, [fart noise]. Life has been rough for the past bit, after a 2-3 road trip and a lot of tooth-and-nail basketball. Toronto needs Kyle Lowry. That’s really all there is to say about things.
But also, there are these three things to keep an eye on tonight.
Healed By Home
On the season, the Raptors are 21-11 (compared to a meagre 17-17 on the road). The aforementioned five-game road trip did not end on a particularly strong note. It’s becoming increasingly clear Toronto will probably find itself stranded in the 4-5 matchup heading into the post-season. But this assumes they can win some dang games at home. They’ve got 16 games left, with seven on the road. Not bad odds.
The travel does begin to take its toll though. It’s hard to believe at this point that Patrick Patterson and his sore knee are 100 percent. And DeMarre Carroll sat out last game with an ankle injury. Every game is important now, but having these guys at less than their best is starting to strain the team. We can chalk up Saturday’s loss to Miami to exhaustion, but now we’re all back in Toronto, and some kind of final stand has to happen. The question is... will it?
Will the Raps Find Their Range?
Without Lowry [lets loose a long guttural scream] the Raptors are shooting 30.9 percent from deep, good for 28th in the league. And they’re currently putting up the fourth fewest three-point attempts per game at 20.9 per game. If this was 1997, it’d be fine. But it is, sadly, not 1997.
Now, I’m not going to point fingers here but, OK, yes, I am. The best three point shooter on the team over the past nine games has been Serge Ibaka. This would be quite a luxury if, say, Patterson, Norman Powell, and Carroll weren’t shooting 33, 26 and 18(!) percent, respectively, over the same stretch. There’s no other point to make here — if the Raps can’t get their 3-point shooting numbers up, both percentage and attempts, they are cooked. Either that, or they need to build a time machine.
Let’s just close here on this. Every year it’s supposed to be Dirk Nowitzki’s last in the NBA. He’s 37 now, and has a team option year for next season. He’s said he has no plans to retire despite the fact that he runs like how I imagine the Little Mermaid would when she first got her legs. It looks like it hurts, is my point.
And yet, gotdamn, there’s Dirk putting up 14.1 points a game, grabbing 6.8 rebounds, and operating as a fulcrum on an offense that has swirled around him since 1998. Whatever happens tonight, let’s enjoy the Dirk Show in Toronto, and remember him as one of the all time greats.
Where to Watch: TSN 1/4/5, 7:30pm EST