Every loss this season for Toronto feels like an insult--how did the Raptors lose that? How could it be possible? And why didn't Dallas respect the purple?
It was a tough game for Toronto, despite being on top of the league with a 13-2 record. After a blistering 10-0 start, highlighted by a beautiful alley-oping lay-up from Terrence Ross (the last time he was heard from in the game), the Dallas Mavericks calmly collected themselves and struck back. That was the story for the second and third quarters. The Raptors looked out of sorts - missing shots, not moving the ball, and then turning it over when they did pass it (an uncharacteristic 17 turnovers tonight).
The central heartbreaker was Monta Ellis; he went off for 30 points on 12-of-25 shooting with six assists for good measure. When the Mavericks needed a bucket, it always seemed to come back to Monta. It was his dagger three that bounced high off the rim and taunted the ACC before dropping through to crush the Raps. The other unlikely backbreaker was Al-Farouq Aminu who chipped in with 14 points and a couple of timely 3s. Meanwhile, Dirk Nowitzki was actually shaken out of his game tonight, tossing in 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting. Still, every time the Raptors seemed to be making their run, one of these Mavs made a play.
For Toronto, the loss comes with a high cost. After playing 20 hugely ineffective minutes, DeMar DeRozan slipped on the floor and left the game with a left groin strain. He was 0-for-8 on the night, a particularly cruel outcome in advance of the upcoming game in DeRozan's hometown of Los Angeles.
On the plus side for Toronto: Amir Johnson. With Jonas Valanciunas unable to break the defensive vice grip of Tyson Chandler, it was Johnson pouring in 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting (including 2-for-2 from three). It's unfortunate Amir's best game of the season to date came on a night when so much of the Raps' offense looked discombobulated.
Two more things that feel rote now to mention: Kyle Lowry did not quit again, and the Raptors found themselves in it despite being down by double digits at times in the third and fourth quarters. This has been the story of the early season, Lowry and the Raps' refusal to be blown out. Lowry led the Raptors with 25 points on 9-of-22 shooting, seven rebounds and four assists. All this after he picked up three fouls in the first quarter.
The Raptors head out on their west coast trip through LA, Sacramento and Utah starting Sunday. They know they have Greivis Vasquez (a nifty 14 points and 4-of-5 from deep tonight) and the invincible Lou Williams (16 points, but he missed a buzzer-beating three, so he is not in fact a superhero) to fill in for DeRozan. There's also folk hero James Johnson working his way back from injury.
How will the team respond? What do you guys think?