Saturday's game saw a West playoff contender welcome back a sorely-needed European luminary for his…
Raptors 95, Mavs 74: First Impressions
After getting blown out by a team that previously only had four wins, the Dallas Mavericks have plenty to work on. The blowout factor, for starters: Dallas has just absorbed its fifth loss of at least 20 or more points this year (all in 23 games). That's one more than the Mavs suffered in their largely abysmal 2011-12 campaign -- and that was a mercifully short 66-game season.
Earlier this week, we attempted to demonstrate where Dallas would be without O.J. Mayo. On Friday night, even though Mayo was on the court for Dallas, the Mavericks got a taste of what life would be like when O.J. is not playing like a top player in the league. Here, he would finish with his second-worst shooting night of the season, going only 2-of-8 from the field for 10 points with six turnovers. He also missed all four of his three-point attempts.
"The whole team played like (bleep) tonight," Mayo said. "We didn't play the way we're capable of playing and when that happens, you get beat by 20."
Dallas was led by Chris Kaman, who netted 15 points and a double-double from Shawn Marion -- the former Raptor pictured above in a previous Canadian life -- with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Brandan Wright also added 13 points for Dallas and finished with a team high plus-nine but that was mostly in garbage time.
For the first time in 1,108 games, the Mavericks as a whole learned what life was like without making a shot from beyond the arc, going 0-of-13 from deep. You have to go back to before Mark Cuban bought the team -- partying like it's 1999! -- to find the last time that happened. Without the deep shot, without Dirk, and without an elite-level Mayo, this Maverick squad looked very 1990's all around.
On the other side of the court, Linas Kleiza was making it rain from deep, splashing in 5-of-11 of beyond the arc for a game-high 20 points.
The other major storyline from tonight's contest is that of Vince Carter's homecoming. The second-leading scorer in Raptors history, Carter was met with a smattering of boos and cheers when he checked into the game in the first quarter.
Though he is no longer the "Half-Amazing" superstar that left Canada in 2004, he is still a use-able piece in the NBA. Something else Carter was not as a Raptor was a power forward, as he was deployed for stretches tonight. He would finish with only four points and two rebounds, hitting only one of his eight shots.
Anyway, we're bemused by any Dallas follower who objects to Canadian hoots directed at ex-Raptor Vince. Seriously, it's not like DFW fans would ever do that to a former local guy returning to town in a foreign uni, right?
Turnovers and rebounds were once again problem areas for Dallas as the Mavs committed 17 turnovers (against a Raptors team that under old friend Duane Casey is the third-most stingy turnover team in the NBA.) The Mavs were out-rebounded by Toronto 47-38. On a fake-positive note, the Mavs actually got control of the turnover problem after a disastrous second quarter in which they were outscored 30-16.
When you are turning the ball over and not securing rebounds, shots must be falling to remain in the game. However, Dallas only shot 39 percent, looking flat on too many jumpers all night. (Oh, and making our DB.com pregame prediction of a 50-percent shooting night look ridiculous.)
Historically, the Mavericks have been able to overcome poor starts in Toronto, coming back five times to win from deficits of 13 points or more. However, tonight that was not the case as too many factors were against Dallas. Poor shooting, sloppy ball security and a chronic inability to secure rebounds proved simply too much to overcome.
"We played poorly and they played great," Dallas coach Carlisle said. "I don't know how else to sum it up. It's as simple as that."
With many problems and few solutions, Dallas now faces a quick turnaround tomorrow night against a Timberwolves squad that may be getting Ricky Rubio back. Let's hope Dallas can find a way to leave their problems north of the border between now and then.