Raptors look for 1st Dallas win since the new millennium
Toronto can influence the Western Conference playoff race
The Toronto Raptors have a chance this week to influence the Western Conference playoff race.
Statistics say it isn't likely to happen.
Already having lost to Shaquille O'Neal and the Phoenix Suns on Friday night, the Raps move into Dallas on Sunday evening and finish this final big road trip of a terrible season by ducking into Houston on Tuesday.
Last year, the Mavericks brawled down to the wire with the Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors for seventh and eighth in the ridiculously tight Western Conference.
This season there are five teams trying to fit into the final four post-season spots and once again the Mavericks are in there along with Houston, Portland, New Orleans, Utah and Phoenix.
Any other team hoping the Raptors could influence all of this should check the stats.
For example, the Mavericks have won nine of the last 10 against Toronto. And 12 of the last 14. And 15 of the last 18.
Dallas has also taken its last eight home games against the Raptors, whose previous victory in the heart of Texas came two days before the last millennium ended.
Add that Toronto (23-37) has just one win on the road since January, and you get the point.
Toronto can't close
Still, there's a reason games are played, and the Raptors were hanging in against the Suns on Friday until it all fell apart in the fourth quarter of a 133-113 defeat.
That was the night Shaq went off for a throwback 45 points.
"We were right there, man," said new Raptor Shawn Marion, who had a season-high 27 points with 11 rebounds.
"We just hit the tank or something, and everything just sort of went the other way. It's frustrating because I think the fight in us just went out the window."
Since coming from Miami on Feb. 13, Marion has averaged 15.4 points per game and over 10 rebounds.
He's been a solid, high-tempo addition to an offence that can score, led by Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani, the latter who has finally found himself this season.
Dallas (35-23) has won two straight after coming back and beating Oklahoma City in overtime on Friday — a night that featured Dirk Nowitzki's fourth 40-plus game of the year.
"It showed we can put it together pretty quickly when we have to," said Jason Kidd, who had all 10 of his points in the extra frame.
"That's a lesson learned. We've got to win these games."
Searching for positives
Bad news for the Raptors, who are searching for anything that can keep a shot at an unlikely playoff spot of their own alive.
Toronto is five games back of eighth place Milwaukee in the East and just 4-6 in the last 10 — hardly the stuff of late-season dreams.
They have 22 contests left with which to forge a miracle.
With files from the Associated Press