Arguably the premier shooting 7-footers ever to play the game. Comparisons to Nowitzki have not done Bargnani any good — Nowitzki is an MVP and simply put, the superior player, but there are some similarities in their games. Bargnani has the size to give Nowitzki more problems than most defenders and he has the speed to get the German superstar into foul trouble. Nowitzki went off for 31 points and 13 rebounds the last time these two teams met (a 114-96 Dallas blowout in Toronto), but Bargnani missed the game due to flu-like symptoms. Both Bargnani and Nowitzki missed a Dec. 28 meeting in Dallas.
Dallas is suffering from a fierce post-championship hangover. The team opened with 11 and 22-point losses, before heading into Oklahoma City Thursday night (Dallas lost twice to the Thunder in the pre-season). “Obviously, we look old and slow and out of shape. That’s a bad combination,” said Nowitzki recently. “I still think this team has a lot of potential, we just need to work.” As expected, Tyson Chandler’s departure to New York has had a major impact on Dallas’ fortunes. Without the defensive anchor, opponents have averaged 110 points against the champs before Thursday’s game. The loss of defensive architect Dwane Casey to the Raptors also has played a significant part in the defensive slippage ... Shawn Marion is leading the team with six rebounds per game. That needs to change if Dallas is to have any shot at contending again.
DID YOU KNOW
Toronto is just 3-12 all-time in Dallas, but one of those victories came last season ... Dallas has won 12 of the past 15 meetings with the Raptors, but, oddly, Toronto has won two of the past three ... Starters Marion and Delonte West each shot a dismal 1-5 in a recent loss to Denver ... One-time Raptor Marion became the fifth player in NBA history with 1,500 steals and 1,000 blocks.