The one thing I was thinking about while watching the Knicks game was that the Raptors need to focus and execute for a full 48 minutes against the Mavs to have a chance at taking the game. While the Knicks were mounting their comeback, thoughts of Nowitzki nailing shot after shot were dancing through my head. Unlike the Knicks, the Mavs are a great team. From what I have seen/read, they are next in line in the West in terms of championship potential in the West.
The Raptors have building a 20 point lead down to a science. They are great at it. Winning by 20 is another story. The Mavs are great at spotting the Raptors a 20 point, then slowly taking it away. What hurts the most is that you know there is nothing that can be done to stop it. The Mavs are perfectly constructed to beat the Raptors on any given night .The script almost writes itself:
Passing the Torch
Since Bargnani got to the league, he’s been the next coming of Dirk. To his credit, he has shown, in stretches, that he is capable of having the same impact on the game. A crucial match-up. Nowitzki is going to get his points, so will Bargnani, but the one who also does the intangibles (rebounding, weak side blocks, clutch play) will have the most impact for their team.
The Sales Pitch
Bosh is a free agent. Bosh is from Dallas. Dallas likes Bosh (the city). Dallas wants Bosh. Dallas can show Bosh that his addition to the team could push them over the top. Bosh has a lot to think about. Just watch Cuban, every time Bosh looks in his direction, he will smile, wink and nod his head approvingly.
The Guy We Should Have Kept vs The Guy We Ended Up Getting
The title pretty much says it all. Marion represents a perfect compliment to Bosh and Bargnani. The guy rebounds the hell out of the ball and would be that second rebounder on the offensive glass when Bargs is on the perimeter. On the defensive end, he is that lock-down guy who would limit dribble-penetration much more than what is going on now. Oh, Marion doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective on either end of the floor.
While Calderon has always excelled at coming off the bench, Jason Terry is the best in the game. He gets on the court, and is istant offense. Makes you pay for giving him space, and makes teams jealous that a starter level player has no problems coming off the bench – we could all be so lucky. After Terry, the Dallas bench gets pretty rough. The Raptors are deeper and more versatile, and need to take advantage. Amir will get burn, and actually need to do something with it. Belinelli/Weems/Wright will all get a shot at covering Howard/Marion, and should actually get good results on Howard who has been playing through an injury all year and not at the All-Star level he once was.
This game is a crucial one, aside from the fact that we dropped one against Indiana, we have a back-to-back against Cleveland and Milwaukee (sadly Milwaukee is the second night). It’s another statement game that they can build off the Friday win in New York, and take it to the Mavs who aren’t used to the cold and early game times.
I can only see this game going into one of two directions: 1) The Mavs just get out to a big lead and coast; 2) The Raptors get out to a lead, the Mavs chip away at it, take control in the 3rd, then coast to a win. What I am more concerned with is the manner in which the Raptors play. No easy buckets, no cheap ones, play through screens (there will be a lot coming), run Kidd into a seizure, and do it for a full 48.