The Raptors have run the gauntlet, and they’ve done so admirably despite injuries to Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka. Minus that pair and Patrick McCaw, Toronto managed a 3-2 road trip out west. What’s more, depth the Raptors seemed to lack emerged throughout, and it showed up again tonight, as the Raptors’ reserves were outstanding against the Dallas Mavericks. Still, the strain the injuries and travel put on Pascal Siakam and Toronto’s starters showed tonight, as a second half collapse resulted in a 110-102 loss to the Mavs.
The game started well for the Raptors, as they quickly jumped out to a 10-3 lead. With the Mavericks struggling to crack their defense the Raptors were able to take the ball off the glass and run it down the Mavericks’ throats.
Then Luka Doncic came to life, penetrated the defense and either found open shooters, or scored it himself, nailing floaters and getting to the line. With the Mavericks no longer missing shots the Raptors weren’t able to get out and run, and their offense stalled out. The result was a 15-0 run for the Mavericks, with Doncic, who had 14 points and four assists in the first quarter, right at the centre of things. Pascal Siakam, who was struggling to score one-on-one against Maxi Kleber, and Marc Gasol, who was passing up mostly open shots to attack closeouts with awkward drives were at the center of the Raptors offensive struggles in this stretch.
Gasol would break the scoreless rut for the Raptors by finally pulling the trigger on an open 3. Meanwhile, some more perimeter shooting from Fred VanVleet would help keep the Raptors within striking distance, as FVV hit a pair of deep three-pointers. His last three of the quarter was an attempted two-for-one that put the score at 32-22 Mavericks, which would remain the margin as the frame ended.
Doncic came out to begin the second quarter, and the Raptors capitalized. Terence Davis was asked to run the point with VanVleet checking out, and, while he was cold from the perimeter, he ran the offense well, attacking the paint to generate opportunities for himself and others. Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson both crashed the offensive glass and played inspired defense.
The biggest story, however, was Matt Thomas, as the Raptors’ gunslinger was perfect from the field, shooting 4-of-4 for 10 points, hitting everything whether the Mavericks ran him off the line or not. Thomas attacked closeouts by stepping inside the arc to hit midrangers, and when the Mavericks failed to closeout he made them pay. The surge from the bench, as well as some shotmaking from Norman Powell and VanVleet, who both had 13 first half points, allowed the Raptors to retake the lead, and they went to the halftime break with a 60-53 lead.
The start of the second half saw the Raptors sputter as the teams starting lineups went head to head again. The Raptors began the quarter 0-of-6 from deep, and an initial 10-2 run from the Mavericks saw Dallas retake the lead. The Raptors’ defense looked solid, but Siakam continued to struggle, starting the quarter 0-of-4, as he failed to score on the plays he usually excels at, missing in the post, on catch-and-shoots and in transition.
Coach Nick Nurse unsuccessfully went to a zone defense midway through the quarter as the Mavs attacked with cutters and ballswings that led to open shots. VanVleet and OG Anunoby helped buoy the Raptors in their slump. Fred attacked the paint for layups even as the three-pointer deserted the Raptors, and OG posted Doncic successfully and banged the Raptors first three pointer of the second half.
With about three minutes left in the quarter the bench began to trickle back in, and made an immediate impact. Hollis-Jefferson made a pair of layups, one in the post and one on a cut, and his tight defense on Doncic generated some stops. The short push made by the bench brought the game to a dead heat, as the third ended with the score at 78-77 in favour of the Mavericks.
To start the quarter, a familiar face made his presence felt for the Mavericks, as former Raptor Delon Wright attacked the rim for a series of baskets. Wright would finish the game with 15 points, including six in the fourth, on 6-of-8 shooting, and his heady defense resulted 3 steals. Wright was the impetus for an early 4th quarter surge that put the Raptors in a nine point hole, before Nurse called a timeout with 10 minutes remaining.
Following the timeout the deficit only grew, even as Powell, who had 26 points and a career-high six 3s on the night, helped keep the Raptors in striking distance. But a Mavs parade to the line saw Nurse take a technical foul in frustration, and Dallas’ lead grow as large as 14.
That technical seemed to help energize the Raptors, as they responded with a run led by Powell and VanVleet, who was the Raptors’ second leading scorer with 24 on the game. The sequence brought the Raptors back to within four with 2:16 remaining, before coach Rick Carlisle called a Mavericks timeout.
Following the timeout, Hollis-Jefferson stole the Mavericks inbounds pass, and hit Powell for a layup. That made it 102-100, which was as close as the Raptors would get late. Doncic, who ended with 26 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists, beat Hollis-Jefferson’s defense with a tough floater, a loose ball battle resulted in free throws Seth Curry and, an attempted Pascal Siakam drive-and-kick resulted in a turnover and more free throws for the Mavericks. Siakam was clearly feeling the impact of his increased offensive load tonight, as he was 6-of-24 from the field for 15 points, with give turnovers. The rest of the way was the typical parade of intentional fouls, ending in a 110-102 scoreline in favour of the Mavs.
And so the Raptors end their road trip by falling to 8-4 on the season. They return home to face the Charlotte Hornets on Monday. Despite the loss, though, I think we can call the road trip, which saw depth and a winning record emerge, an unmitigated success,