Game Preview: Raptors at Mavericks

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

The Raptors are in Dallas to take on the Mavericks on Saturday. They come to Dallas having won four straight following a closed-door locker room meeting after a disappointing home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder a week ago. Most recently, the Raptors came back from a 15-point deficit against the Miami Heat to record a 17-point victory.

Tip-off: 8:30 P.M. ET

Broadcast info: TSN1, 4/ TSN1050

TALKING POINTS

DeRozan does it again

DeMar DeRozan added another line to his list of career achievements on Thursday when he dropped 40 points in Toronto’s comeback victory against the Miami Heat. It was the first time in his career that he’s scored 40+ points in back-to-back games, after also recording a 42-point performance in Toronto’s overtime victory against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.

Most important for Toronto, DeRozan’s 82 points over the previous two games came on a combined 60 percent shooting. DeRozan also contributed crucial crunch time plays against the Bulls, securing huge rebounds, a steal and rising for perhaps the best block of his career. Against the Heat, he played solid defence while also adding another six rebounds and three assists. In short: He’s doing everything he can to help the team finish the regular season strong.

“We needed everything,” he said. “Every scrap that we could pull out of there, it wasn't about plays at that point, it was more so who wanted it more. We all did a collective effort of putting in and doing our part.”

Last meeting

The Raptors are 4-1 since the last time they faced the Mavericks. Toronto picked up a 100-78 victory against Dallas nearly two weeks ago at the Air Canada Centre. After a close first quarter, Toronto steadily blew the game open behind a 25-point performance from DeMar DeRozan and 19 points from Norman Powell who started in place of DeMarre Carroll who missed the game because of an ankle sprain.

Toronto shot 47 percent in the win while holding the Mavericks to just 37 percent shooting as Harrison Barnes scored 18 points and Dirk Nowitzki added 17 in 29 minutes.

Serge Ibaka will be back in uniform after missing Thursday’s win against the Heat as he served a one-game suspension for his part in an on-court altercation with Chicago’s Robin Lopez on Tuesday.

Youth movement

With Kyle Lowry rehabbing after wrist surgery, it’s been a true team effort for the Raptors. Head coach Dwane Casey has been very clear that the players who will earn playing time are those that that bring it on both ends of the floor. Unlike most postseason bound teams where rookies and sophomores sit on the bench learning and observing, Toronto’s younger players have been making serious contributions this season.

In Thursday’s victory against the Heat, Delon Wright, Norman Powell and Jakob Poeltl each played significant minutes in the fourth quarter as Toronto completed the comeback victory. Wright played the entire fourth, while Poeltl was extremely active at keeping possessions alive around the basket in his 8:40 minutes of action. Powell played 6:44 minutes in the fourth, continuing to show maturity beyond his years as he shuffles between starting lineup and bench lineup depending on the opponent and situation.

“It’s about bringing some valuable energy and giving the older guys some rest,” Poeltl said. “That’s truly what it’s about. We know we’re a young group and we really don't have that much experience, but we have to make up for it with our enthusiasm, our energy, our hard play, and that’s what we did.”

Having youthful legs to help ease the burden on Toronto’s starters in the final weeks of the regular season has been a boost for a team already undermanned. DeMar DeRozan has been extremely vocal in his praise of the younger players on the roster, as has Casey.

“They really came in and did an excellent job,” Casey said. “They came in and really did an excellent job of setting the tone.”

“You see the work ethic that they have, the work that they put in,” DeRozan said. “Especially being young guys, the ability to go out there and have the confidence in themselves, and the coaching staff to have the confidence in them to go out there and play the right way, they show it. It’s great to see young guys come through in big moments.”