Seven minutes into the first quarter, Vince Carter entered the game for Dallas.

For the first time in a decade, there were as many cheers as boos. A brave few stood and clapped.
Carter would not have any real effect on the contest, but he did prime his audience for a series of charged, unpredictable mood swings.

For instance, the rousing and just-a-bit-outsized ovation for another, more dearly departed friend, Jose Calderon.

“He’s got that European thing,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said beforehand. “You know. That thing.”
Is it leather pants? A scooter? A Kraftwerk shrine?

Whatever it is, Toronto likes it. A creepy amount.

The first time Carter took the ball on the perimeter — a return to blanket boos.

When he backed DeMar DeRozan to the rim, turned him round and jammed over him — unanimous cheers.

Toronto: maintaining its reputation as the crazy girlfriend of the sports spectating world.

From the Raptors’ perspective, Carter’s appearance deflected attention from the real story.

After tying on masks all season long, the Raptors appeared to have chosen both comedy and tragedy. Three miserable losses out of four, and the bandwagon emptying like someone had dropped a lit cigarette.

With that in mind, you might argue that the low point of the entire season came in the first quarter. Oddly, it was a stroke of luck that undid them.

Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki decided to take the night off. Not because of injury. Just for a breather.
How’s that for reminding you where you belong in the NBA pecking order?

Toronto had spent the entire day redefining its defensive schemes to take Nowitzki’s floor-stretching length and versatility into consideration.