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Raptors vs. Mavericks: Toronto looks to Serge

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The Raptors are in Dallas to pay a visit to a team they barely know. That's the NBA season sometimes.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

There was a funny exchange in Toronto between Dallas Mavericks' head coach Rick Carlisle and the Athletic's Eric Koreen. It began with a comment on the paucity of meetings between the Mavs and Raptors, to which Carlisle remarked it probably wouldn't be until next season before he and Koreen saw each other again.

But it wasn't left there, as Koreen added, "or in the Finals."

The funny moment came a few seconds later, after the comment reached Carlisle's brain. As Koreen continued to ask his question, one could almost see is working its way through the various complicated synapses of Carlisle's busy mind, before spurring his mouth into action. "OK, yeah, I'll see you at the Finals then."

The humour of the situation was, of course, the insane likelihood of this literally ever happening. The odds are astronomically against it. The Mavericks and Raptors meet twice a year, and have done so 40 times since 1996. There's no advanced narrative here, no bad blood, no ill will, no legacy. Just a pair of games, home-and-home, every year. It would be cute for coach Carlistle to greet Koreen like an erstwhile compatriot if the two teams met in the Finals, if only to allow them a moment to bask in the correctness of their mutual prediction. But that's not going to happen in this or any year soon.

The Mavericks as a team have generally been trending downward, further from the playoff picture (despite a late resurgence they are three games back of the Nuggets), and further still from the title they won in 2011. They've got intriguing pieces -- Nerlens Noel is back on the court, Harrison Barnes is doing his best, Seth Curry can shoot -- but time is not on their side. The Raptors, meanwhile, are almost whole again. Serge Ibaka will be with the team tonight after serving his suspension, and the rest of the squad is healthy. Only Kyle Lowry sits out -- of course.

There's no story between these two teams but the game still means something to each of them. The Raptors are trying to climb back into third place (and maybe charge for second?). The Mavericks are fighting for a spot in the playoffs. So yes, technically speaking, the Finals reunion is not dead yet. There's even this to look forward to:

Now check out Harsh Dave's preview here and let's get in the comments.