The holiday season is difficult for some people. After losing 98-93 to the last place Dallas Mavericks, we now know to include the Raptors in with this group. Fresh off of mathematically claiming the top seed in the conference — after winning 12 of 13 games — the Raptors reverted to some of their old ways. They got off to a sluggish first quarter, they gave up a sizable third quarter run, and then, just to provide a sliver of hope, gave themselves a chance to win in the dying minutes — only to fritter the game away again.
The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, DeMar DeRozan, unfortunately set the tone for the evening. The Raps’ long time leader put up a brutal line of eight points on 3-of-16 shooting, with just three rebounds and five assists (the lone positive stat on his night). DeRozan didn’t hit a three, and he only went to the line three times (hitting two). It was a terrible game from him, after a run of superlative performances. Was it the hard nosed play of Wesley Matthews that did him in? Maybe, but it’s clear the Christmas break did DeRozan no favours.
Kyle Lowry, meanwhile, fared better. He kept the Raptors moving with 23 points, eight rebounds, and eights assists, while shooting a modestly more respectably 6-of-17 (and 4-of-8) from three. This kind of shooting from Lowry — e.g. 35 percent from the field — usually augers poorly for the team as a whole though. And considering the Raptors shot a combined 33.7 percent, it gets a little easier to understand how Toronto let this one slip away.
The moment of Toronto’s collapse can be marked. After trailing by single digits for most of the first half, the Raptors felt on the verge of seizing control of the game in the third. In that fateful frame, up seven with the ball, the Raptors had a chance to drive their lead up to double-digits. Instead, since this is indeed the third quarter, Toronto let the opposing team back into it. The Mavericks scored 17 straight points, many of which came from twin humps Harrison Barnes and J.J. Barea, to flip the score. Toronto would never reclaim the lead — though not from lack of trying.
Elsewhere, the Raptors’ big men did what they could: Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and 10 rebounds, Serge Ibaka had 11 points and 12 rebounds, but he sadly missed two shots, including a three to tie and an awkward hook down the stretch, that proved to be the Raptors last gasp. While they managed to squeeze out some collective production from the likes of Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, and Pascal Siakam, the Mavericks were able to keep the game out of reach. Again, it was Barnes and Barea, but also Maxi Kleber (15 and 8) and of course Dirk Nowitzki (18 and 7), doing the damage.
There’s arguably more frustration to account for here, but let’s get to the bottom line: the Raptors are going to lose games. We know it, we tell ourselves we know it, and we also tell ourselves we know that these games in particular — fresh off a holiday weekend, on the road, without a ton to play for against a bad team — are the season’s traps. It would be nice then for Toronto to show up, to not play down to their competition, and to win instead of lose. We know all of that.
But if we also know something about the holiday season and Christmas, it’s that we don’t always get what we want. Sometimes it’s good to remember that whole peace on Earth idea and the benefits of giving instead of receiving. So fine, enjoy this gift Dallas. And see you in the new year.