Game Preview: Raptors vs Mavs

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

Dallas Mavericks (2-2) @ Toronto Raptors (5-0)

When: Friday, October 26th, 7:30 P.M. ET

Where: Scotiabank Arena

 

Leading into tonight:

Injury Report: For the Raptors, Delon Wright is listed as questionable with a left adductor strain, while Fred VanVleet is listed as probable with a left big toe sprain. VanVleet missed Wednesday’s victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves. For the Mavs, Jose Juan Barea is questionable with a left hamstring strain, Harrison Barnes is probable with a right hamstring strain, Devin Harris is out with a left hamstring strain, and Dirk Nowitzki is out as he rehabs from left ankle surgery.

Record tied: The Raptors tied a franchise record for best start to a season after Wednesday's 112-105 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Toronto is now an NBA-best 5-0, matching their start in the 2015-16 season. A win against the Mavericks on Friday would also match the team’s best start to a season at home (5-0), which the team has done during the 2014-15 and 2003-04 seasons. Toronto is the only team that has played five of its first six games at home to start. Kawhi Leonard was fantastic on both ends of the floor in Wednesday’s victory, scoring a game-high 35 points in 36 minutes. He added five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocked shots, shooting 15-for-23 from the floor, 2-for-4 from the three-point line and 3-for-4 from the free throw line.

The Mavericks come to Toronto following a 111-104 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on the road on Wednesday. Dallas lost despite opening with a 42-point first quarter and holding a 20-point advantage after the opening 12 minutes. Luka Doncic, the third overall pick in the 2018 draft, had his second 20-point game of the season, finishing with 21 points, nine rebounds, two assists, a steal and a blocked shot in the loss.

Extra Assists

Focus forward: Though the Raptors have gotten off to a 5-0 start and hold the NBA’s best record, the team isn’t allowing itself to get ahead of anything and is focusing on taking each game as it comes. “We still have a long way to go,” veteran Danny Green said. “5-0 doesn’t give us a real sense of where we are. It’s still early in the season. Most teams are still figuring it out. We’re still figuring it out. We know we’re not at our best, but it’s good to win games while you’re learning. We see the potential, but there’s a lot more work to be done.

Trends emerge: In Wednesday’s victory against the Timberwolves, two trends continued: First, Kawhi Leonard had what might end up being the steal of the season. Diving on the floor and anticipating the bounce-pass, Leonard stole a ball he couldn’t even see. Game by game, it seems as though he has one of these defensive plays. More than the actual steal, though, it’s the example he’s setting. “When you see your All-Star diving on the floor, there’s no reason why everybody else can’t dive on the floor,” Danny Green said. The second trend has been the strong play of Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka at the centre position. With both players now playing full-time centre, their minutes have gone down, but production has flourished. Every player wants to play as many minutes as possible, but players who have previously been starters accepting their roles within head coach Nick Nurse’s offensive plan allows for maximum roster versatility. 

Defensive effort: Prior to the first game of the season, Nick Nurse said his team had spent about 85 percent of the previous 10 days working on defence. Though the first five games of the season, it has shown. Toronto is currently ranked first in the NBA in opponent field goal percentage, holding opponents to 41 percent shooting. They’ve also tied a franchise record for consecutive games holding opponents below 42 percent shooting, as opponents haven’t topped that mark against the Raptors yet this season. The last time this happened was during the stretch of Nov. 20-29, in the 2001-02 season.

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