Mavs to face Raptors without Gooden, Thomas

DALLAS -- The Toronto Raptors, with their sweet-shooting, athletic big men, are the type of team the Dallas Mavericks had in mind when they signed Drew Gooden to play center.

Too bad Gooden isn't ready to play. He's nursing a rib cage injury and hopes to return Tuesday against the Houston Rockets.

The Mavericks will have to figure out a way to slow down Lincoln High product Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani without their preferred small-ball big man. Bosh and Bargnani, who combined to average 51.5 points in the Raptors' first four games, are both comfortable bombing away from the perimeter and putting the ball on the floor.

That makes them quite a difficult matchup for traditional center Erick Dampier.

"I'm just going to foul them every time and not give them any shots," Dampier said with a laugh. "We've got enough guys on this team that we can foul everybody out."

Actually, the Mavs might not have enough guys to execute Dampier's strategy. Gooden and Tim Thomas, who will miss at least another week while rehabbing from knee surgery, were signed to split center minutes with Dampier. They'll both be wearing sportcoats on the Mavs' bench Saturday night.

Dirk Nowitzki will match up with one of Toronto's bigs, which means he'll have to expend a lot of energy on the defensive end. Kris Humphries, James Singleton and Shawn Marion are the candidates to spell Dampier and Nowitzki.

"It's an awareness thing," coach Rick Carlisle said. "If you're a big guarding those guys, you have to be ready to close out away from the basket and be ready to move your feet when they put it on the floor. It's tough. It's one of the tougher matchups in the league because they both shoot the ball so well and both drive the ball so well."

Dampier, a savvy veteran, understands his limitations. He knows it's virtually impossible for him to challenge the Raptors big men's shots and keep in front of them when they try to drive. He'll rely on his teammates to help make up for the mismatch.

"I'm just going to try to contest their shot and make them drive to where the defense is and the guys will help me out," Dampier said. "It's a team effort. We're not going to leave anybody out there one-on-one on a boat by themselves. We're going to get together and help each other out."