The Toronto Raptors return home tonight riding a high, having blown out the Boston Celtics in Boston last night. Back-to-backs are always tricky though, and for a young team learning how to play with one another, even just a short stretch of tired legs can mean breakdowns that affect the outcome of the game.
And their opponent tonight, the Dallas Mavericks, are well-rested, having had two days off since their first game. They’re probably hungry, too, having been embarrassed by the Atlanta Hawks in that one.
All that makes tonight a good early-season test for both teams!
Where to Watch:
TSN, 7:30 PM EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Precious Achiuwa
Dallas – Dorian Finney-Smith, Kristaps Porzingis, Dwight Powell, Tim Hardaway Jr., Luka Dončić
Toronto – Pascal Siakam (shoulder – out), Yuta Watanabe (calf – out)
Dallas – None
New coach, new style
The Mavericks certainly had one of the more... interesting offseason in recent NBA memory. First, they parted ways with Rick Carlisle, only one of the very best coaches in the NBA, and the coach that led them to their first championship. And they replaced him with the point guard from that championship team, Jason Kidd — a fellow who has had, shall we say, very limited success as a head coach.
They were also interested in signing Kyle Lowry to be their point guard alongside Luka Dončić, but Lowry went to Miami; then the Mavs were reportedly also interested in Goran Dragic, but apparently weren’t willing to make a viable offer.
Which lead to them basically returning the same roster, only with a worse coach, who’s already said he wants to shoot fewer three-pointers (in a league where everyone else wants to shoot more). And the Mavericks didn’t exactly look like they had much in their offensive bag in their opener on Wednesday, getting blown out 113-87 by the Hawks.
Length and speed
It’s been almost two years since the Mavericks played in Scotiabank Arena, but I know you remember what happened the last time they were here, right?
This Raptors team is very different of course, but as last night’s win in Boston showed, the 2021-22 Raptors are very capable of causing similar chaos. I’d be worried that Rick Carlisle would quickly figure out a counter; I’m less worried about Jason Kidd figuring one out.
The cohesion that the team showed on defense last night, with with Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby covering tons of ground on the perimeter, Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent digging down on dribblers and getting into passing lanes, and Precious Achiuwa and Khem Birch guarding the rim, was miles ahead of where it was on Wednesday night.
If they can capture that same energy tonight, then the Mavericks might be in for a long one.
Jr. vs. Jr.
This isn’t the first time Gary Trent Jr. and Tim Hardaway Jr. have played against each other, but it is the first time they’ve played against each other with Trent on the Raptors (both players missed the last meeting, last season). It just struck me while looking at the lineups that their fathers certainly played against each back in the day, and indeed, Basketball Reference tells me they met 11 times between 1995 and 2001. Hardaway’s teams won six of those matchups.
Both players are x-factors in today’s matchup; neither one is a featured player on offense or a defensive stopper. But both are capable of getting hot at any time. But while Hardaway has never shown a particular inclination for D, Trent’s effort on the defensive end in this young season has been a revelation. If he can keep that up, then Raptors fans might start becoming a little less frustrated by his shot selection!