Big Challenge

The Toronto Raptors hoped the returns of Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani and T.J. Ford would give the team a spark.

The reunion of Toronto's three stars, however, appears to be short-lived.

Likely without Ford - their second-leading scorer - the Raptors try to end an eight-game losing streak to the Dallas Mavericks when they meet Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Dallas -5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 198 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 90% of bets for this game have been placed on Dallas –5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Bosh, Bargnani and Ford have all missed points of the season with various injuries, and Tuesday's 100-88 victory marked the first time the trio played together since Nov. 20. But Ford may not be available for the Raptors (12-10) after taking a scary fall in the win, and his status is uncertain.

Raptors spokesman Jim LaBumbard said Ford "had feeling in his upper and lower extremities when he was taken off the floor." He was expected to remain at an Atlanta hospital overnight.

Ford scored 26 points - nearly doubling his season average of 14.1 points - and was driving to the basket when Hawks rookie Al Horford hit the guard's face with his hand. The diminutive point guard landed hard on his back, his head bouncing off the floor.

As a precaution, Ford, who missed the 2004-05 season while with Milwaukee due to neck surgery, was strapped to a stretcher and wheeled off the court.

"After a while I could see him moving and that was a relief," said Bosh, adding there was immediate concern from the team because of his injury history.

"It turns my stomach because of who it is," Bosh said. "Like I say, we know about his situation and everything."

Jose Calderon likely will see extended minutes if Ford is unable to play, and is coming off a solid performance Tuesday in which he had 15 points and seven assists in just 19 minutes. Still, the Raptors may be hard-pressed to salvage a split of the season series with the Mavericks (14-8), whom they lost to 105-99 on Nov. 20, and have not beaten since a 77-71 victory Nov. 6, 2003.

The Mavericks are hoping to extend their mastery of the Raptors as they continue to try and put a difficult 3-6 stretch from Nov. 23-Dec. 6 behind them. Dallas has won consecutive games, including a 98-89 win over the New York Knicks on Monday as Dirk Nowitzki had a season-high 36 points on 14-of-23 shooting.

"I was fortunate I was able to find the rhythm very quick," said Nowitzki, who scored 15 third-quarter points. "From the beginning on I stayed aggressive, had some good looks. Pretty much I was on attack mode all night long."

Josh Howard added 22 points, but coach Avery Johnson was upset his team let a 22-point lead dwindle to seven in the second half.

"We had a big enough lead and we should have kept it," Johnson said. "The last two minutes or three minutes of the third quarter was absolutely pathetic. The guys who were in there let the whole team down. We can't afford the team to do that."

Johnson's frustrations were apparent to his players during the team's film session Tuesday before his team practiced in Toronto.

"The film session was a little tense," Jerry Stackhouse told the Mavericks' official Web site. "I think just from a matter of the letdown, so many good things happened for two and half quarters for us, but just a couple bad possessions then all of a sudden it snowballed into more of a game than we liked."

Nowitzki, who scored 32 points against the Raptors on Nov. 20, has enjoyed a lot of success against Toronto. He has averaged 24.1 points in 16 career games against them, and 27.8 points the last six meetings.

He posted four double-doubles and recorded four 30-point games in that span.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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