After that stupid and crazy roller coaster of a game that ended as a loss to the Houston Rockets, it was going to be interesting to see how the Toronto Raptors were going to come out against the Dallas Mavericks, who were 18-6 at home coming into tonight’s game.
Coming out of the gate, they looked like a different team compared to Friday night. Throughout most of the first half they played fast, pushed the pace, and they moved the ball much better than most of the Houston game, which resulted in many open looks and easy baskets.
In the first, they came out hot and firing on all cylinders. Leading the way was none other than Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, as they combined for 23 of the teams 38 points. It was Kyle though that was the most impressive. He was the one that pushed the pace and made things happen for his teammates, and it opened up things for himself as well. We also got our first KLOE moment in a long time as he capped off the quarter with a three at the buzzer.
The second quarter was similar to the first, but provided an extra breath of fresh air. We saw Delon Wright get some run after a rare DNP-CD, and he made the most of it. He made plays on both ends of the floor, playing active defense and pushing the pace in transition. Coach Nurse also shortened the rotation to just nine guys in the half, leaving C.J. Miles, Pat McCaw, and Greg Monroe as the odd-men out. It’s obvious that with the team starting to get healthy again, Nurse is going to have some trouble deciding on his rotations from game to game, but at least he seemed to make the right ones in the first half.
Where do we start on the the third quarter? It was about as bad a quarter as you can play. The Raptors were able to play a similar style to the first, but it was a struggle. They started off 0-of-10 from the field and allowed the Mavs to take a 75-74 lead halfway through the quarter. They missed shots that they usually make, and did make in the first half, but it was easy to see how the team could get out of their rhythm when Tony Brothers was blowing the whistle every other possession.
To make their struggles worse, Nurse inexplicably decided to put Greg Monroe in the game, where he immediately lost Dwight Powell in the pick and roll and gave up an alley-oop dunk. Frustrating when Raptors Twitter can see it coming time and time again, but it keeps happening. Dallas ended up outscoring Toronto 30-15 and held a 88-85 lead after three.
The fourth turned out to be Luka Doncic versus the Raptors. There were only four Dallas baskets that Doncic wasn’t directly involved in, and the Raptors went on a 6-2 run and took the lead when Doncic was on the bench. The turning point in the quarter was when they switched to a 3-2 zone halfway through, where they played with more intensity, and as Kawhi said postgame, communicated much better, coming up with huge stops and allowing them to take the lead and never look back.
The Raptors, as talented a team as they are, still need to find a way to put together 48 minutes of consistent top level basketball, a level we all know that they’re capable of. It might just be a mental thing where they get too complacent at times, or it might be the fact that the full roster hasn’t been healthy enough to get true chemistry, but they still need to find a way. This game turned out to be much harder than it needed to be, mostly because of their dreadful performance coming out of halftime. A win is a win however, as the Raps were able to close it out and head back home 37-15, with three days off until their big matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks.
A Few Extra Thoughts
- Jack Armstrong talked about this for a bit in the first half and I agree with him, Luka Doncic should be an all-star this year. It’s amazing how he can control again and lead a team at only 19 years old, not to mention he’s entertaining as hell. I do think the coaches will leave him out because they’re more traditional, but he deserves the nod.
Luka Doncic has become the first teenager in NBA history to record a 30-point triple-double. pic.twitter.com/xmMeHpxRwQ— Justin Kubatko (@jkubatko) January 28, 2019
- The Raptors need Jonas Valanciunas back in a bad way. Monroe doesn’t contribute what he’s supposed to anymore, and he’s worse than a zero on the defensive end. Nurse needs to keep utilizing Siakam at the centre position with the bench units and leave Monroe on the bench.
- I can’t wait until Thursday’s game against the Bucks. Getting another chance to see Kawhi vs Giannis will be great, but the intensity from both teams should be fun to watch. This game will determine the tiebreaker for potential home-court advantage through the playoffs, as this is their fourth and final matchup of the season.