The term "making history" is thrown around a little too casually in the sports world, but fans of the long downtrodden Toronto Raptors are feeling good knowing their team left its mark in the history books Tuesday evening.
Thanks to a 102-89 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in the Lone Star State, the Toronto Raptors improved to 4-0 in the young NBA campaign -- the first time the team has won its opening four games since its inception into the league 20 years ago.
Toronto successfully spoiled the party in Dallas's home opener while exorcising some past demons in Texas. Heading into the contest, the Raptors were a paltry 4-15 against the Mavs at American Airlines Center.
The Dinos' strong start will go a long way into enduring the dreaded road-heavy schedule in the early days of the season. Toronto plays nine of its next 11 games away from the ACC, with 12 of its upcoming 19 tilts against Western Conference opponents.
The Raps are a team that can go as far as All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry will take them and Tuesday was yet another example of just how important the 29-year-old is to this squad. Lowry finished with a game-high 27 points on nine-for-15 shooting to go along with 10 dimes, carrying an offense that had its fair share of ups and downs throughout the course of the matchup.
DeMar DeRozan rebounded from a foul-filled opening half to collect 20 points of his own, eight of which came from a perfect performance at the charity stripe. Ageless sharpshooter Dirk Nowitzki looked like he would never miss another shot again for the majority of the game but, like the rest of his team, fell into a funk in the final frame. Disco Dirk ended up with a team-high 18 for the Mavs, who can only point the finger at themselves for letting this one slip away.
Unlike the previous two games that featured a pair of sluggish starts, the Raptors came out of the gate red-hot offensively in the first quarter.
At the end of the first frame, Toronto led 31-25. The Raptors were shooting 53.8% from the field and controlled the pace of play, moving the ball quickly and efficiently just like they did in their first three games. The Raps did not go to the free throw line once in the first 10 minutes, meanwhile the Mavs were at the charity stripe 10 times and converted on six attempts.
A Mavericks lineup that featured most of its starters dominated Toronto’s bench early in the second quarter that helped flip the script for the time being. Dallas outscored the Dinos 14-4 in the opening four minutes before Toronto’s suddenly dormant offense awakened once again. DeMar DeRozan picked up his third foul at the 8:43 mark which landed him on the bench until intermission. Kyle Lowry (14 points, four assists) and Luis Scola (12 points, five rebounds) carried the load on the offensive side of the floor into the break.
With the score sitting at 51-49 in favour of the Mavs at halftime, Toronto’s Jekyll and Hyde start to the first half could easily be seen as a metaphor for the up and down 2014-15 campaign. Fortunately for Raps fans, there weren't any heartbreaks in store this time around.
In a back-and-forth third quarter exchange of leads between both clubs, Lowry once again played the role of Superman for the Raptors who were clinging to a 74-73 lead heading into the final quarter.
At the midway point of the fourth with the Mavs leading 86-82, it was Dallas’s turn to go cold on offense. Dwane Casey’s club capitalized on the situation in the form of 12-0 run as the Mavericks began to fold with the game reaching its final stages.
Luis Scola hit a huge trey to give his team a nine-point lead with just over a minute and a half remaining – the proverbial icing on the cake in a big win in Texas.
As Toronto sports fans we're forced to adopt a cautious optimism approach to things, but there's plenty of reason to feel good about this team in the wake of Tuesday's victory. Besides, after the way last season ended we could use a reason to smile.
What did you think of the game? Anything that stood out to you in particular? Will the Raptors ever lose again?