Tough Trip Begins In Dallas…

The Raptors visit the defending champs in Dallas tonight, with plenty of storylines heading in. Here’s five things to watch.

Casey’s Return: Coach Casey clearly wants to downplay the season’s only matchup against the team he helped coach to a title last season.

“We’re going there for business, it’s not going to be a social call for me,” said Casey on Thursday. “We’re going in there to try and compete against the defending Champions and that’s going to be my mindset going in.”

Definitely what you want to hear, but I can only assume it’s much tougher to shut those emotions off in real time. The Raptors players can use that to their advantage by trying to win one for Casey tonight.

Better D In Big D: With a defensive efficiency rating of 95.7 on Wednesday against the Pacers, the Raptors are clearly moving in the right direction at that end of the floor. But the final 90 seconds illustrated that there’s still plenty of work to be done. Tonight’s an excellent test.

Getting The Offence On Track: The Raptors hung around in large part thanks to their defence on Wednesday, but their offence struggled for the first three quarters. One way to cure some of their woes? Get to the free throw line with a little more regularity than the 13 FT attempts they’ve posted in each of their first two games.

Mavs’ Sluggish Start: Whether it’s a post-title hangover or the product of personnel changes, the Mavericks have had a rough start to this compacted 2011-12 season at 0-3. Blowout losses at home to the Heat and Nuggets were alarming, but last night’s 104-102 defeat following a buzzer-beating Kevin Durant three-pointer was just plain heartbreaking.

The home side should be starving for that first win tonight, so the Raptors had better be ready.

Vince Carter: Say what you will about his post-Raptors career, but Carter always seems to have something in the tank (man, I hate that word) against his former team. Does he do it again tonight?

Remember, big things are possible in Big D, where a seriously undermanned Raptors squad earned one of their biggest wins of the season almost a year ago to the day. Join our live chat to discuss it tonight using the hashtag #RapsMavs .

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