Gameday: Mavericks @ Raptors, Dec. 14

Amir is back, Acy is here, Lowry and Bargs still out. Game on.

He-yo. Shorter pre-game today (no positional breakdown) because I’ll be recording this week’s Rapcast with Ryan Wolstat from the Sun shortly. Regardless, the Mavericks are in town and I’ll be taking in my first game of the season. The Mavs are 11-11 without Dirk, getting contributions from a handful of vets, a turning-the-corner Darren Collison, and O.J. Mayo Who By The Way Makes Half of What DeRozan Got Paid (official name).

Tale of the Tape
O-Rating: Dallas 14th (104.3), Toronto 24th (101.6)
D-Rating: Dallas 15th (104.9), Toronto 29th (109.5)
Strength: Dallas 3FG% (5th, 38.4%), Toronto Off-Days
Weakness: Toronto 3FG% D (5th, 37.9%), Dallas O-Reb (28th)

Bryan Gutierrez of The Two Man Game was kind enough to answer a few questions in advance of tonight’s “showdown.”

You’re .500 without Dirk. How excited does that have you, and what’s the upside here if/when Dirk returns?

The Mavericks went 2-7 during the year they won the title when Dirk was out as he was recovering from a knee injury. That goes to show two things: he’s a monster that can fix a lot of things, and the Mavericks didn’t have parts that worked well unless Dirk was with them. Fans, analysts and everyone would gladly take .500 or above .500 for a record without Dirk this season. That’s not to say this team is inferior to the championship squad. There is definite talent and youthful talent on this roster. The difference is there has been massive turnover and there’s a process that has to be gone through in order to find the right groove. For example, Dallas has used 11 different starting lineups through 22 games of the season, due to injuries and trying to find a balance.

Dirk and O.J. Mayo together could cause havoc on the league. Dirk and Jason Terry combined to be one of the most lethal two-man duos in the league over the last three or four years. It will be very interesting to see how those two play off each other. If Dirk is healthy and ready to go, the Mavericks could build some strong momentum for a healthy playoff run.

O.J. Mayo, a personal favorite of mine, has been a great signing for you guys. He has a player option next year he’ll likely decline for more money, but is he now a long-term part of the future in Big D?

The key players in the organization, Mark Cuban, Rick Carlisle, Donnie Nelson and Dirk Nowitzki, love Mayo’s approach to this season. The former Trojan definitely has a chip on his shoulder after he was given the cold shoulder treatment during free agency this summer. Cuban definitely realizes he got an ultimate bargain this year and equally knows that he’ll have to pony up the money if he wants to keep Mayo in the mix. The thing is, the Mavericks CAN back the truck up to keep Mayo. The team will still have ample cap space to work with. Cuban has noted they’ll be willing to go over the cap if the player(s) make sense. They want him to continue to process of evolving as an all-around player, but the team loves what they’ve gotten out of Mayo. More importantly, Mayo loves the situation in Dallas. The timing worked out for both parties. Unless something radical happens, the Mavericks might have found a new cornerstone piece for the future.

What has happened with Darren Collison? His numbers haven’t fallen from last year but he’s been very inconsistent and is now coming off the bench behind…wait, Derek Fisher??

I believe Collison is a victim of putting too much pressure on himself. To me, it seems like he goes up and down way too much, despite his words suggesting he doesn’t get too high when things are going good or too low when things aren’t going well. Rick Carlisle has been consistent with his approach to the young guard. If he was playing well but made mistakes, Carlisle would let him know. Clearly, if Collison isn’t doing well, he’ll let him known. It’s way too soon to suggest Darren is mentally fragile because he’s competed and done well in big game situations.

I do think Derek Fisher (yes, him) will actually help the team AND Collison. The team is still young at the guard positions, so a guy with the veteran experience Fisher provides can be extremely useful. The idea is that Fisher can be a mentor to Collison and also they can play alongside each other in certain situations. As Collison sees how things need to go down as a point guard for a team with championship aspirations, the hope is he’ll find his way as the season continues. It’s too soon to rush to any judgments with Collison, but hopefully he’ll be the player most expected him to be. Having Dirk back definitely won’t hurt that cause.

The Raptors have been awful of late. Plus I’ll be at the game, which means a near certain loss. What can the Raptors try and exploit to escape with the victory?

Dallas has three major weaknesses: playing heavily in a consistent halfcourt setting, allowing offensive rebounds and massive/random surges of turnovers. Dallas loves to play at a faster pace. With players such as Mayo and Collison, that’s a given. Teams who can dictate a slower or more physical place tend to rattle the Mavericks. If the Raptors attack the glass after a missed shot, there’s a decent chance they can get a second opportunity. The Mavericks are a little slower in terms of foot speed with their big men. The problem for an opponent is that Mayo has taken on a larger responsibility as a rebounder. That being said, it’s still a weakness for Dallas. There’s not much Toronto can do with the turnovers because Dallas just randomly goes into stretches where they lose their mind and turnovers pop up and do so in a hurry. At that point, Toronto just needs to pounce on the opportunity.

I do wish the best for Dwane Casey in Toronto. He was a tremendous assistant for the Mavericks. His attention to detail on the defensive end of the floor was instrumental in their success as they won the title in 2011. Hopefully he can find a way to get Toronto to turn that corner and build some consistency…just not until Saturday.

Injury Updates (please post in comments if updates come)
Bargs – week-to-week
Anderson – now practicing, no return date
Fields – cleared to practice
Lowry – day-to-day
Kleiza – day-to-day
Amir – back from suspension
Acy – here from Bakersfield

The Pick
Vegas: Mavs -5
Hollinger Power Ratings: (And by the way, congratulations to Hollinger, who a) definitely isn’t reading this and b) just got hired in a senior executive position with the Grizzlies.) Mavs -3
Blake: I want to go with a W because I’ll be IN THE HOUSE but I’m doubtful. Screw it, Raptors by 2 when Mayo looks to have been fouled on a game-ending three but there’s no call. I get drunk.

Follow Blake on Twitter.

To Top