Coming off of a big win against Miami, the Raptors took on the Mavericks in Dallas looking to extend their four-game winning streak. Playing without DeMarre Carroll, new fan favourite P.J. Tucker got his second start for the Raptors this season. Behind a well rounded 18 points, 6 assists, and 3 rebounds from DeMar DeRozan, and 18 points and 8 rebounds by Serge Ibaka, Toronto lead the entire way and beat the Mavericks 94-86, securing their fifth win in a row.
Dallas struggled early against Toronto’s stifling defense, with Jonas Valanciunas getting the Raps’s first 4 points, both baskets off of the offensive glass. It was trouble from the start for Dallas after they burned two early timeouts. In something of a surprise, Toronto got off to a scorching start making 8 of their first 10 shots, on 6 assists, to go on a 17-4 run to open the game. The Mavericks had no answer for the Serge Ibaka-Valanciunas tandem as the two teamed up for 16 of Toronto’s first 21 points.
Dallas went into a 2-3 zone in an attempt to slow down the Raptors’ attack, but Toronto maintained their lead by aggressively crashing the offensive boards to take a 30-22 lead at the end of the quarter. A noteworthy play in the first quarter was at the 2:21 mark, where DeMar DeRozan chased Harrison Barnes on the fast break, and instead of conceding a dunk, matched Barnes’ pace, then used quick hands to swipe the ball of his knee, forcing the turnover. It was that kind of night for Toronto.
Just like the start of the game, the Raptors began the second quarter on the attack. Toronto got on the board with a Norman Powell layup after he knifed through the defense, and capped a 7-0 start with a Delon Wright 3 pointer from the top of the key. Continuing the trend of gushing about Tucker, this guy is great for the Raptors. On the aforementioned Wright three, Tucker received an entry pass, then immediately tapped it back out to Wright, giving him a wide open three while the defense was swivelling in an attempt to find the ball. Patrick Patterson also looked good, as he aggressively bullied (Canadian!) Dwight Powell to the rim a couple of times.
For the most part, the Raptors played simple yet effective basketball, getting into the paint and either finishing at the rim, or finding open shooters. In addition, Jakob Poeltl continued to make himself a presence as he relentlessly attacked the boards. Making yet another play to endear himself further to Raptors fans, at the 8:07 mark, Tucker made an extreme save to keep the ball in bounds, jumping horizontally over the announcer’s table, leading to a Powell layup which put Toronto up by 16 points. After Dallas went back to the 2-3 zone, Toronto’s offense stalled a bit and the Raptors entered the break with a 55-44 lead.
The third quarter was a bit of a slugfest, as the game slowed down to more of a grind-it-out type of game. One contributing factor was that the refs appeared to adopt a “let them play” mentality as several aggressive Raptors attacks by DeRozan and Cory Joseph went unrewarded. The Mavs also continued to aggressively trap DeRozan off of any screen. Luckily for Toronto, DeMar exhibited great patience, often stepping through the double team to make the right pass. At the end of the quarter, Poeltl made a few impactful plays, including a soft finish off of a Joseph wrap around pass, and a point blank block of a Salah Mejri dunk attempt. The Raptors entered the final frame up 10.
Although the Raptors started the quarter with a Patterson three, Toronto was out of sync as DeMar and Joseph were on the bench. The Raptors let the Mavericks get back into the game with a 10-0 run behind some uncharacteristic offensive fouls and rushed shots. Here Wright showed his inexperience, as he committed some bad, forced plays. Luckily, Ibaka calmed the Raptors down, switching and forcing Yogi Ferrell into a tough possession on one end, then nailing a jumper at the top of the key to end the Toronto drought. The Raptors hadn’t scored for about four minutes to that point. Serge followed this up by nailing a turnaround jumper on Dorian Finney-Smith to put Toronto up by 9.
Although Dallas fought to get back in the game, Patterson hit his fourth 3 late, going a perfect 4-of-4 from distance, to put the game out of reach. The Raptors now trail the Wizards by a single game for the 3-seed. But most importantly: they’ve clinched a playoff spot for the fourth year in a row — a first for the franchise.
What did you guys think of the game?