The Raptors take on the Mavericks tonight in what will be (almost certainly) the team’s last game facing the legend Dirk Nowitzki. The team itself is pretty talented with rookie sensation Luka Doncic averaging 20.2 points a game but they ultimately hold a losing record from a below average offense (currently 19th in offensive rating).
The past couple weeks have been a little hectic for the Mavericks. In what has been much discussed now, Dennis Smith Jr. was made available on the trade market but the Mavericks had trouble finding good value. The team ultimately found a resolution with Smith Jr., who is back on the court helping his team win. In two games since returning, he is averaging 18 points and 4.5 assists.
The Mavericks crazy couple of weeks didn’t end there. In more refreshing news, Dirk Nowitzki was invited to participate in the three point contest (a very fun thing), along with Luka Doncic in the skills competition and Smith Jr. in the dunk contest.
On the basketball court, the Mavericks are still figuring things out and adjusting to Doncic as the new cornerstone of the franchise. Players like Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr. have taken on smaller roles which is no easy adjustment. Losing J.J. Barea for the season to an Achilles injury hurts as well. Now sitting four and a half games out of the eighth seed in West it seems the Mavericks are best suited to hold onto their assets and trade expiring contracts at the trade deadline and make a stronger push for the playoffs next season.
Here are the details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 7:00 PM EST
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka
Dallas – Luka Doncic, Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, DeAndre Jordan
Toronto - Jonas Valanciunas (thumb - out), Danny Green (hand - probable)
Dallas – J.J. Barea (achilles - out)
Now that Kawhi Leonard is back in action wing minutes for bench players are hard to come by. The Raptors have five players coming off the bench that could reasonably claim to some playing time, such as Patrick McCaw, Delon Wright, Norman Powell, C.J. Miles, and OG Anunoby.
If Friday night’s game versus Houston is any indication Nick Nurse will have tough decisions ahead sorting out the rotation. Delon Wright received his first DNP- CD of the season and C.J. Miles played a total of nine minutes. It was Norman Powell who got most of the burn, playing 20 minutes and scoring ten points.
How will Nick Nurse sort it all out? It’s a little to early to extrapolate the rotation but one would assume Anunoby and Powell are locks to play, making the third wing spot off the bench an open position. Against Houston, Miles got the call but he only took two shots and was mostly ineffectual. It wouldn’t be surprising if Wright gets some run over Miles tonight, as Nick Nurse searches for a rotation.
The Mavericks, a Fun Team
The Mavericks are similar to the Los Angeles Clippers in that there is a lot of “fun” going around. The roster features players with wildly different skill sets. Dennis Smith Jr. might be the fastest player in the league. Maxi Kleber plays with a reckless abandon. DeAndre Jordan has a “get out of you seat” dunk every once in a while. Wesley Matthews shoots deep threes. And I haven’t even mentioned Luka Doncic, the 19 year-old sweet shooter who has emerged as the franchise cornerstone for the Mavericks.
Unfortunately, the intrigue of the roster hasn’t translated to wins. The Mavericks most used lineup and starting five (Doncic, Smith Jr., Matthews, Harrison Barnes, and Jordan) has an offensive rating of 96.3, which would stand as the league’s worst rating — over five points per 100 possessions worse then the Chicago Bulls’ 30th ranked offense.
It is only when Maxi Kleber, Dorian Finney-Smith, and other bench players are featured that those lineups improve. The Mavericks have an interest to keep their starting five together but if the team continues to slide out of the playoff picture the pressure will be on Rick Carlisle to look at his lineups with a more discerning eye.
Both the Mavericks and Raptors haven’t been able to enjoy consistent secondary scoring this season. For Toronto, Kyle Lowry is supposed to be that guy. When Lowry is on his game he is pulling up from three in transition, driving and kicking, and using his strength around the rim. Since returning from a back injury two weeks ago, the flashes of peak Lowry have been far and few between. To often he is deferring (albeit passing beautifully) to teammates and passing up open shots.
For the Mavericks, Harrison Barnes is supposed to be that guy. Ever since he signed as a free agent three seasons ago he’s been a big time scorer, averaging 19.2, 18.9, and now 17.7 points per game. The dip in scoring this season shouldn’t be surprising considering all of the talent around Barnes. What is surprising, however, is his cratering efficiency. Over his first two full seasons with the Mavericks, he shot 45.7% on 15.9 field goal attempts per game. This season he is shooting a weary 40.7% on 14.5 field goal attempts per game, albeit launching at a career-high rate from three (6.6 attempts per game).
The Mavericks and Raptors can learn a lot from each other, as they both are experiencing the growing pains of welcoming a superstar. If Steph Curry can find his game playing next to Kevin Durant so to can Lowry and Barnes. It may just take some time.