Dallas Mavericks: Andrea Bargnani

Rapid Reaction: Raptors 84, Mavs 76

December, 28, 2010
How it happened: The Mavs fell in a trap.

They came out flat for a game against a bad Eastern Conference club sandwiched between meetings against Western Conference contenders. The Mavs’ only lead was 1-0 in the opening moments.

This loss can’t just be blamed on missing Dirk Nowitzki, although the Mavs certainly could have used the MVP candidate’s shooting touch. (Of course, Toronto could say the same about Andrea Bargnani.) The Mavs simply played too soft to beat even a subpar opponent.

Consider points in the paint to be exhibit A. The Raptors had a 48-24 advantage, which is absolutely ridiculous.

Toronto also whipped the Mavs on the glass. A team outrebounded by a 42-35 margin at home doesn’t deserve to win.

And the Mavs’ offense was absolutely atrocious. They matched a season high for fewest points scored while shooting only 41.3 percent from the floor and 22.7 percent from 3-point range.

The Mavs played like a team that expected to be able to mail in a win. The result was the Mavs’ second loss in the last 19 games, a whipping at the hands of the 11-20 Raptors.

What it means: The Mavs won’t catch the Spurs in the West standings any time soon. While the Mavs were losing to a lesser foe, the Spurs were dominating the Lakers in San Antonio. The Spurs will bring a 2 -game lead to Dallas.

Play of the game: With the Mavs desperately in need of a spark, Tyson Chandler set a pick for Jason Kidd at the left elbow and rolled to the basket. Kidd threw the lob, which Chandler caught with two hands and threw down hard despite taking a two-armed forearm shiver from Raptors forward Amir Johnson. Just like that, there was life in the American Airlines Center crowd again, although it didn’t last long.

Stat of the night: The Raptors ended a 10-game losing streak in Dallas. Toronto had never won at the American Airlines Center.

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."



Dirk Nowitzki
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
ReboundsS. Marion 6.5
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9