Considering that the Toronto Raptors are a combined +73 in their last two games, they couldn’t be in a better spot heading into tonight’s game. Or could they? Let’s check out the game details and then we’ll talk about momentum — and two guys who are tearing it up right now.
Where to watch:
TSN, 8:30 PM ET
Toronto Raptors — Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam
Dallas Mavericks — Luka Doncic, Spencer Dinwiddie, Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith, Javale McGee
Toronto Raptors — Fred VanVleet (back – questionable), Ron Harper Jr. (G League assignment – out), Justin Champagnie (G League assignment – out)
Dallas Mavericks — Davis Bertans (knee – out), Tyler Dorsey (G League assignment – out), Jaden Hardy (G League assignment – out), Frank Ntilikina (ankle – out), McKinley Wright IV (G League assignment – out)
There’s one thing to be said about momentum, and continuing the flow of multiple big wins to the next game. There is also the aspect of comfortability, and Toronto is playing one of the few guys in the league tonight, who will absolutely torch you, if you play too comfortable.
Tonight is the second game of a mini two game Texas road trip. The first being a monstrous 143-100 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, the second coming tonight against Luka Doncic, and the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavericks got off to a slow start through the first five games of this season, but a couple wins in their past two games puts them also in a place to win three in a row tonight.
Luka Doncic is putting up MVP numbers this season, as he still looks to claim what should be his first of many career MVP’s. He’s almost averaging a triple double, with 36.1 points per game, 8.9 rebounds per game and 9.0 assists per game.
Well Luka, tonight, you meet your match.
Toronto has the potential to be the best defensive team in the league, especially against a player like Doncic, who stands at roughly 6-foot-7.
Doncic prods the defense possession after possession, lulling you to sleep, just to either step back, or get half a step past you, and that is all he needs to convert.
The Raptors have the length, and speed in almost half of their team to cover Luka. I am definitely not saying it will be easy. But, between Defensive Player of the Year candidate, OG Anunoby, and Nurse’s consistent defensive game plan of shutting down the other team’s star, and making someone else beat the Raptors. I would expect a lot of double-teams on Doncic, with Anunoby pressuring him early and often.
If you look down the schedule this season, or even over Nurse’s entire tenure as the Raptors’ head coach, there is a common scheme, surrounding Nurse and opposing stars. Nurse would rather the Raptors play at a disadvantage over someone who isn’t an all star, rather than straight up against some of the league’s best.
Sometimes this can result in Tyrese Maxey scoring 44 points. It also results in 10 points and 10 turnovers for Trae Young, or 11 points for James Harden. Players of this caliber are insanely difficult to stop. It’s why Nurse puts so much emphasis on slowing them down, because even when you throw absolutely everything at them, they still manage to put up great numbers and contribute towards a winning cause.
Doncic is playing at an even more special level than anyone the Raptors have played this year, and they have played some stiff competition: Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, and Donovan Mitchell, who is leading the surging Cleveland Cavaliers.
In fact, the second best player this season out of all the players previously mentioned, may also be playing in this game.
Heading into the season, we heard Pascal Siakam claim that he wanted to be a top five player in the league. This wasn’t anything crazy to say. Every team should hope that their star player desires a goal like that.
Siakam however, is backing his words up. Being the best player in arguably every game for Toronto this season, Siakam heads into tonight also nearly averaging a triple double, with 25.6 points per game, 9.6 rebounds per game and 7.9 assists per game, of 47/36/73 shooting splits.
Siakam is showing us what separates the all stars from the superstars. All stars can put up these kind of numbers, but superstars DO put up these numbers. Superstars show up for their team night after night, performing at levels good enough to be the best player in the game, every game. They head into matchups against other top tier players, and outshine them, outperform them, but more importantly, lead their team to victory over them.
Doncic already has league-wide recognition as a superstar, and perennial MVP candidate. Tonight, Siakam will get another opportunity to prove why he belongs in that same conversation, and show the world that he is a top five player.