When the waves get rough and the boat is swaying, it’s reassuring to have a Steady hand on board to keep everyone safe.
Fred VanVleet returned to the lineup and scored 26 points to lead the Raptors to a thrilling 105-100 victory over the visiting Mavericks.
Steady Freddy, who also chipped in with 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and a game-high +12, was not alone in helping topple last season’s Western Conference finalists. Chris Boucher continued his hot play of late, scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds off the bench. His activity on the offensive glass went a long way in boosting Toronto’s advantages in possessions (+15 field goal attempts), second-chance points (25-5), and offensive rebounds (17-4).
Before the game, Mavericks Head Coach, Jason Kidd, said, “O.G. Anunoby is playing at a really high level on both ends.” He added that he should be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. After tonight’s performance, more and more eyes are being opened to the truth behind those statements.
In the 4th quarter, O.G. scored 12 of his 26 points — all three of his made field goals when the Mavericks cut the lead to 1. Where Anunoby really put his stamp on this game, however, was when he guarded Luka Doncic. He limited the MVP candidate to a season-low 15 field goal attempts and was always in Luka’s face once he crossed half-court.
Luka's lowest number of field goal attempts this season:— Jay Rosales (@Rosalesaurus) November 27, 2022
15 - vs Raptors (Nov. 4)
15 - @ Raptors (Nov. 26)
Nick Nurse and his staff are not strangers to utilizing unorthodox defensive practices. Nurse said pre-game that the Raptors had a “menu” of defenses lined up for the Mavericks and expected to dig pretty deep into it. While there were some minor nuances, he essentially used one (very effective) tactic: double-team Doncic once he crosses half-court, Anunoby face-guards Doncic so he doesn’t get the ball back, then hope the defense can scramble and recover well enough to keep Dallas from scoring.
Looking at the final score, it’s easy to say the strategy worked in the Raptors’ favour, but that wasn’t the case in the opening minutes. The non-Luka starters seemed ready to step up to Toronto’s challenge, picked apart the Raptors, and jumped out to a 22-7 lead in the first quarter.
Dinwiddie 9, Powell 6, Raptors 4.— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) November 26, 2022
Doncic was “held” to 24 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds. Spencer Dinwiddie was saddled with foul trouble for most of the second half and only chipped in with 6 more points after hitting 3 triples in Dallas’ opening flurry. Dorian Finney-Smith scored 16 points while Maxi Kleber and Christian Wood added 11 and 10 points respectively off the bench.
As has been the case all season, Toronto’s ability to crash the glass (10 offensive rebounds) and capitalize (7-0 on 2nd chance points) kept the Raptors in the game. Dallas led 29-24 at the end of the 1st. The five-point deficit doesn’t fully illustrate how lucky they were to still be within striking distance. VanVleet and Boucher had combined for 21 of the 24 points on 7-for-14 shooting. The rest of the team shot 1-for-9.
The second quarter started with Luka on the bench and the Raptors reeled off a 6-0 run to take their first lead. Eight different Raptors would end up scoring in the quarter as Toronto turned a five-point first-quarter deficit into a 54-52 halftime lead.
This was the first time the Raptors donned their City jerseys but that wasn’t the only thing that looked different. Khem Birch and Thaddeus Young both drew offensive charges — a rarity in this post-Kyle-Lowry Raptors era. Toronto’s bench (thanks to Boucher) kept pace with Dallas’ reserves, who are one of the best in the league. Doncic, in a tight game midway through the 4th quarter, actually missed a pair of free throws.
Just as the Raptors made their first-half comeback when Doncic went to the bench, the Mavericks made their comeback when VanVleet was off the floor. Dallas started the 4th on an 11-2 run to take an 84-83 lead. The Mavs’ only other fourth-quarter lead was 92-91. In both instances, Toronto regained their lead from an unlikely source (and starter), Juancho Hernangomez!
In what’s been an ongoing theme over the last few games — since a fateful evening in Dallas three weeks ago — the Raptors entered the game short-handed. Toronto started the game without ** big inhale ** Precious Achiuwa (right ankle sprain), Dalano Banton (left ankle sprain), Scottie Barnes (left knee sprain), Justin Champagnie (lower back soreness), Otto Porter Jr. (left foot, toe dislocation), and Pascal Siakam (right adductor strain).
On a night when the Raptors were down 6 players while their opponents were fully healthy, Toronto needed (and received) multiple players to step up and a Steady hand to right the ship!