Game Preview: Raptors vs. Mavericks
The Raptors are back in Toronto and looking to get back on track following a five-game road trip that ended in disappointing fashion. The team dropped back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday to the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat. The Dallas Mavericks come to Toronto after their four-game winning streak was snapped by the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.
Tip-off: 7:30 P.M. ET
Broadcast info: TSN1,4,5 / TSN1050
Close calls, blowout losses
While the Raptors closed out their five-game road trip with a blowout 104-89 loss agains the Miami Heat, the Mavericks were also on the losing side of things. Unlike Toronto's garbage-time heavy blowout loss though, the Mavericks were stung by a Devin booker game winner with 17 seconds remaining to snap a tie and give the Phoenix Suns a 100-98 victory.
One game after Dirk Nowitzki notched 30,000 career points, he had another fantastic performance against Phoenix despite the loss. Nowitzki finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds against the Suns. He shot 10-for-14 from the floor in 31 minutes and his team was a +14 when he was on the floor.
The status of DeMarre Carroll for Monday's game is unknown. After missing Toronto's win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, Carroll played in Atlanta against the Hawks, but did not suit up on Saturday against the Heat. Carroll's ankle sprain happened on Mar. 4 in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
For the Mavericks, big man Nerlens Noel could potentially return to the lineup after missing the previous two games with knee soreness. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle spoke about the third-year player's status with ESPN.
He's doing better," Carlisle said. "We're hoping he can play Monday. But that doesn't mean he will. It just means we're hoping he can. He's made progress each day so he will definitely travel."
Locking in, finishing strong
With just 15 games remaining in the regular season, a pair of back-to-back losses was not how Toronto had hoped to finish out a five-game road trip. Now, back on the Air Canada Centre home floor, the team is looking to refocus and lock in to finish the regular season strong.
"Look at the calendar, 15 games left (in the regular season)," DeMar DeRozan said. "That should be all the motivation we need right there. We don't have much time and every single game that we have to play is valuable. That's how we have to look at it."
The Raptors have had to adapt as Kyle Lowry recovers from wrist surgery. After solid ball movement to start off their road trip, the offence grew stagnant in Atlanta and Miami, something the team will be looking to avoid on Monday. Against the Heat, Toronto recorded just seven assists. The low assist total was partly due to a rough shooting night. In the two most recent losses, the team made just 6-of-40 three-point attempts. Still they must continue taking open looks when they are available.
It was a little bit of everything," said DeRozan. "We just have to find our spots, find guys where they want it and execute. We can't keep relying on iso basketball or somebody making big shots or hoping somebody gets hot. We've got to play together."
Cory Joseph, starting in Lowry's absence, agreed with DeRozan's prescription of playing together. He also wants to focus as much on the little things as the bigger things from the jump.
"It starts with everybody individually, including myself," Joseph said. "Just playing harder from the get go. Doing the little things, playing together. As long as we stick together we'll come out of this for sure. We're a good team. We've got a lot of talented players. We're in a little rough patch right now, but just like how you can fall in a rough patch quickly you can get out of it quickly. That's what we're hoping to do. We've just got to be better from the jump."