The end of the Raptors longest road trip of the year is nearly here. There’s been a lot of misfortune, sure, the type of misfortune that would cripple a lot of other teams league wide. But, this Raptors team has a great deal of resolve, and a bevy of undervalued players who, together, equal way more than the sum of their parts. That’s not to say that they’re correctly undervalued, just that, that’s the reality of the situation and the Raptors have made a habit of capitalizing on that perception. The Raptors “Island of misfit toys” is now looked at as a private beach that unlocks each and every players potential that walks on it. The Dallas Mavericks will have to contend with what looks like the NBA’s most competent team.
The Mavericks can’t seem to unlock the potential of their supremely talented duo, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Doncic has been sublime, of course, showing a level of downhill playmaking that is truly special. He’s thrown his name in the MVP hat (next to Pascal Siakam’s) in what’s been some of the best basketball we’ve seen from a 20 year old. Basically, he’s been transcendent.
The trouble remains with Porzingis, though. Doncic clearly works best with a roll man, and Porzingis has been relegated to stretching the floor to make room for the spread pick n’ roll with either Doncic-Powell or Doncic-Kleber. Coming in at a shade over 40-percent from the floor and 36-percent from downtown, Porzingis hardly looks maximized in that role. One of the league’s best coaches in Rick Carlisle is working hard to figure out how to fix this, but hasn’t yet come up with an idea that works. ‘Pozingod’ tanks the Mavericks offense, and even though he’s done well roaming the paint defensively with his absurd length, that’s not what the Mavericks envisioned.
With the Mavericks seemingly unable to maximize their prized duo, Doncic will once again be lifting his team by his lonesome. And as I wrote about in yesterdays Black Box Report, the Raptors eat that type of offense for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
On the other side of things, the Raptors have one of the league’s best coaches, Nick Nurse, who has figured things out for the most part. Also, the Raptors should have OG Anunoby back in the lineup. He’s been one of the league’s best defenders thus far, and is bringing a ton to the Raptors offense in spacing and cutting. Even in a fairly easy win against the Blazers, he was still sorely missed on the wing. Even though this seems like it closes a very small window of opportunity for Malcolm Miller for the time being, Anunoby back in the lineup is nothing but great for the Raptors.
Even though the Raptors are shorthanded, they genuinely seem to have the guard rotation figured out – albeit at the expense of any Fred VanVleet rest – which is also where the Mavericks would like to be, but aren’t. I’m of the mind that Delon Wright is far superior to Seth Curry, but the Mavericks are focused on that spread pick n’ roll with Doncic at the forefront, and that means jamming as much spacing into the offense as possible. There’s been mixed results for the Mavericks so far, as the 2-guard has been a revolving door. That type of inconsistency is at the heart of both of the Mavericks losses to the Knicks this year, and could loom large in this Raptors game. Do you trust that Doncic can out-fox a defense that has yet to be out-foxed? Or do you slide another creator (Wright) onto the floor to alleviate some of the attention your young superstar gets? I guess we’ll see.
As for the Raptors incumbent stars – Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam. The Raptors duo, should have a great opportunity to put up points in this one. The Mavericks aren’t particularly good at defending, and when they opt for defense heavy units, their offense wanes. They’ve often chosen too leave defense on the back-burner this year, and their offense (2nd in the league) has done well. However (comma) the Raptors can do both at the same time. Especially when you consider the Mavericks don’t have an ideal matchup for Siakam, who showed exactly how devastating he can be (36 and 44 points) when you don’t stick an All-NBA defender on him.
The Raptors can wrap this road trip up at 4-1, and really, I mean really pat themselves on the back for it. They’ve set themselves up wonderfully, they just have to maintain the defensive focus they’ve had for 3 games consecutive and channel it towards Doncic. Everything else should fall into place if that happens.
Tipoff: 8:40pm EST | TV: TSN | Radio: TSN1050
Kyle Lowry (thumb fracture) is out for 2-4 weeks, Serge Ibaka (sprained ankle) is out for 2-4 weeks, and Patrick McCaw (knee) will be re-evaluated at the beginning of December.
PG: Fred VanVleet, Terence Davis II
SG: Norman Powell, Matt Thomas
SF: OG Anunoby, Malcolm Miller, Stanley Johnson
PF: Pascal Siakam, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris Boucher
C: Marc Gasol
PG: Luka Doncic, Delon Wright, Jalen Brunson
SG: Seth Curry, Courtney Lee
SF: Dorian Finney-Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr., Justin Jackson
PF: Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber
C: Dwight Powell, Boban Marjanovic
If you missed the initial wave of posts, the Rapcast is doing a giveaway of two tickets for the Rockets @ Raptors game on Dec. 5th. You can find out about entry here.
Have a blessed day.