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Raptors can’t sustain hot start, lose to the Mavericks 103-95

OG Anunoby found his offense, but foul trouble and their tank running on “E” cost them the game.

Dallas Mavericks v Toronto Raptors Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

The last time the Dallas Mavericks played the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena, we witnessed a magical night, as the Raptors came back from a 30 point deficit. Tonight, unfortunately, there was no comeback in the offing.

The Raptors got off to a lead early, thanks to the heroics of OG Anunoby, who finally got back on track offensively, dropping 20 first-half points, with four three-pointers. But the early success was not sustainable, as foul trouble and fatigue slowly crept in.

Anunoby and Scottie Barnes’ early foul trouble problems allowed Luka Doncic to get going. Doncic dropped 12 points and four dimes in the pivotal third quarter, where he wrestled the momentum and the game away from the Raptors. Doncic would go on and finish a ho-hum 27 points, 12 assists, and 9 rebounds. Kristaps Porzingis (18 points) and Tim Hardaway Jr (25 points) provided the additional scoring punch for the Mavs.

The Mavericks’ zone defense caused a lot of stress for the Raptors’ half-court offense, as they repeatedly packed the paint, which led to Kristaps Porzingis’ four early blocks. The Raptors shot a paltry 40% for the game, as they ran out of steam as the game went on. Scottie Barnes had a slow start, perhaps bothered by a left quad contusion, but he finished strong, ending with 17 points and eight rebounds. Unfortunately for the Raptors, it was a failed showcase for Goran Dragic, who only had two points and a team-worst -16 for the game.

The game started with a much better flow for the Raptors, as they took advantage of a porous Mavs defense. Anunoby was able to get what he wanted early on, putting up six quick points in the first three minutes. Scottie Barnes started the game defending Luka Doncic, and the Raptors’ length and activity bothered the Mavs’ offense. The Raptors went up 11-2 early, forcing the Mavs to call a timeout.

Unfortunately for Jason Kidd, the timeout did not help the Mavs. The Raptors continued to disrupt their offense, and added five more points before an and-1 by Luka Doncic got the Mavs their bearings back. Anunoby’s feeling it tonight as he followed up his early scoring barrage with two trifectas. However, a combination of Luka-magic and the Mavs zone defense messing with the Raptors’ half-court offense prevented the Raptors from pulling away.

A Barnes + bench lineup to close the first quarter looked shaky offensively. The Mavs took advantage of that futility to inch their way back, going on a 9-2 run to keep the game close, 25-18 at the end of the first period.

The second quarter was very “pre-season-y,” as both teams combined for 3-for-18 shooting to start the frame. But Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa got the momentum back for the Raptors as they combined for quick eight points and tried to create some separation from the Mavs. Unfortunately for Nick Nurse, Barnes would pick up his third foul midway through the second quarter. He went straight to the locker with an apparent left quad contusion. Adding salt to the injury, Anunoby picked up his third foul as well, as he got “gamed” by Dwight Powell and Doncic, who baited him into committing a foul.

The Raptors struggled offensively without Anunoby, and Luka was finally able to move freely, away from the shackles of Anunoby and Barnes. The Mavs cut the lead within four, forcing Nurse to take a rabbit out of his hat by bringing Isaac Bonga to hound Doncic for the rest of the quarter. That change didn’t bother Luka that much, but Bonga had his decent moments on the floor. The Raptors escaped the half with a 51-45 lead.

The Raptors were glad to have Barnes back to start the second half, and there was a much-concerted effort to get him more involved in the offense. Barnes rattled in five quick points, but he picked up his fourth foul, chasing Doncic three minutes into the half. Meanwhile, Porzingis was a problem for the Raptors on both ends of the court. What’s worse, the Raptors were losing out on the 50/50 balls and ended up paying for it big time by surrendering perimeter shots. Doncic’s layup tied the game at 62 apiece, forcing Nurse to call a timeout.

Sadly, the Raptors came back sluggish, and the momentum was going to the Mavs’ side. It was just a matter of time before Nurse brought in his break-the-glass-in-case-of-emergency card in Dalano Banton. Still, the momentum was clearly with the red-hot Doncic and the Mavs, as they racked up a 15-2 run to take a 69-62 lead. The Raptors would fight back, showing a better ball movement, but Anunoby picked up his fifth foul with two minutes left in the quarter. The Raptors continued to dig deep behind VanVleet’s leadership and an alley-oop to Achiuwa to end the third frame trailing Dallas by two, 74-72.

The Mavs opened the final period with an 8-3 run behind back-to-back trifectas by Hardaway, taking the momentum back from the Raptors, pretty much for good. Hardaway and the Mavs would continue their hot perimeter shooting, while the Raptors would only score three points over the next six minutes. The Raptors tried to make one last run behind the back-to-back dunks by Barnes and Achiuwa, but Doncic and the Mavs were just in a good place offensively, and the Raptors were not.

Despite the loss, the Raptors are keeping their opponents under 100 points on average through three games (94.7 DEF RTG). However, the coaching staff needs to figure out how to outscore opponents, and that starts with the half-court offense. Perhaps a shake-up in the rotation? The Raptors aren’t getting much from Khem Birch, Chris Boucher, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Goran Dragic. Last I checked, Malachi Flynn and Sam Dekker looked good offensively when they got an extended run.

Up next: The Raptors host our old friend DeMar DeRozan and the surging Bulls on Monday.