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NBA: Toronto Raptors at Dallas Mavericks

Late rally comes up short, Raptors lose to Mavs 111-110

The Raptors could have easily folded down big right after Siakam’s injury, but Scottie Barnes showed the Raptors why he’s the team’s future.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors tried everything to stifle Luka Doncic, but Luka’s vision was always a step ahead of the Raptors’ defense on Friday night. Doncic routinely found a loophole in the Raptors’ defense, and thanks to his teammates’ shooting proficiency, the Dallas Mavericks snapped the visitors’ winning streak, handing the Raptors a 111-110 loss.

O.G. Anunoby led the Raptors with 27 points, seven rebounds, and five steals — making tonight’s game the third consecutive game that he’s had at least five steals. Pascal Siakam added 18 points, seven rebounds, and six assists before leaving the game late in the third quarter with a groin injury. That snaps Siakam’s 20/5/5 streak at seven games. Chris Boucher and Precious Achiuwa combined for 32 points and 17 rebounds off the bench.

Scottie Barnes was scoreless in the first half and had nothing going until Siakam’s injury. Still, that turn of events pushed a button for him, as he captained the rest of the game en route to his first triple-double, finishing with 11 points, 11 rebounds, and ten assists.

Luka Doncic led all scorers with 35 points, eight rebounds, and six assists as he toyed with the Raptors’ defense, no matter how hard or physical they got. Spencer Dinwiddie added 21 points and seven assists, while Christian Wood scored 13 points off the bench for the Mavs.

Despite their poor shooting, the Raptors managed to keep the Mavs within striking distance through the first half, with Siakam and Anunoby carrying the load. Perhaps it’s regression to the mean, as the Raptors have been shooting well these past two games.

The Raptors not only shot horribly outside the paint but were sloppy with the ball, turning it over 19 times. What makes it worse, the transition lineup in the first half was brutal and might have cost them the game. However, it was a horrible third quarter that proved to be their undoing, as they started the quarter going 1-for-6 and with six turnovers while allowing the Mavs to shoot 9-for-10 from the perimeter.

The game started with the same pace as the Raptors’ previous games — fast, and the opposing team was bothered by the tall and long Raptor lineup. The defense was off to a good start, but their offense was sloppy, coughing up the ball three times in the first three minutes. Scottie Barnes, who started the game guarding Luka Doncic, went down with a foot injury but was back on the court when Christian Koloko picked up his second foul.

The Raptors failed to capitalize on their excellent defense as they bricked most of their shots outside the paint, allowing the Mavs to take a 13-10 lead via Doncic’s three-pointer. Siakam had to carry the Raptors’ offense early on, scoring 8 of the team’s 15 points, and he could’ve had five early assists if his teammates hit their shots.

A 6-0 run to put the Raptors up 21-17 and forced coach Jason Kidd and his Mavs to call a timeout. OG Anunoby finally broke a streak of 10-straight misses, but the Mavs’ perimeter shooting kept them within striking distance. Coach Nurse’s game plan failed to contain Luka Doncic, as he finished the quarter with 14 points, as the Mavs led 31-29 after one.

The Raptors opened up the second frame with a stingier defense, but remained futile in shooting the ball. Things looked ugly for both teams without Doncic and Siakam, and we had to settle for getting entertained by Javale McGee, who’s the only person that made at least one field goal in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the quarter. The Raptors’ offensive struggles allowed the Mavs to go on a 7-0 run, putting the Mavs up 38-31 and forcing Nurse to call a timeout.

The Mavs forced Nurse to put Siakam back in, and the MVP candidate promptly nailed a middy. Gary Trent Jr. took a spill on a fastbreak attempt as Josh Green recklessly pulled his hand, which resulted in Trent Jr.’s head hitting the cameraman’s knee. Perhaps that was the poke-the-bear moment for Trent Jr, as he finally nailed a three-pointer.

Foul trouble plagued the Raptors’ bigs, as Christian Koloko and Chris Boucher picked up their third foul early on. The Mavs continued to run their offense through Christian Wood in the absence of Luka, who sat for almost two-thirds of the second quarter. Anunoby’s three-pointer pushed the Raptors within two but failed to gain more ground as they continued to brick from the perimeter. The Raptors switched to a zone defense late in the quarter, resulting in back-to-back three-pointers, giving the Mavs their biggest lead at 59-50. Nurse stormed the floor for a tech when Achiuwa’s dunk didn’t get an and-1 (it was a clear foul), but since “ball don’t lie,” Doncic missed the freebie. The Raptors did a better job hounding Doncic this quarter, but he found an open teammate each time, and only a Siakam-led 7-3 run to end the half cut the Mavs’ lead 62-57. If there was any consolation, the Mavs held Doncic to two points in the second quarter.

The Raptors opened the second half with a hard show on Doncic, who promptly fired an assist to Powell for a dunk. Koloko picked up his fourth foul in just a minute, allowing Doncic to score a layup on him easily. Anunoby picked up two quick offensive fouls, and a Dinwiddie triple gave the Mavs a 12-point lead. The bleeding continued as the Raptors committed their 5th turnover in three minutes, and Doncic’s running hook pushed the lead to 16. Trent Jr’s fastbreak layup broke the Raptors’ drought, but Doncic’s three-pointer forced Nurse to call a timeout.

The Raptors responded much better defensively after the intermission, highlighted by Anunoby’s pick-six off a Mavs inbounds play. However, the Raptors remained sloppy with the ball, as Barnes’s nonchalant pass to Siakam resulted in a Doncic steal. Siakam tried to do a chase-down block, but ended up fouling Doncic, who might have tweaked his ankle. Anunoby and Siakam kept the Raptors within striking distance, leading a 10-2 run to cut the Mavs’ lead to 82-71.

The Mavs kept their poise and prevented the Raptors from cutting the lead into single digits, despite the momentum slowly swinging toward the Raptors’ side. Siakam slipped on the court late in the third, and appeared to have injured his groin, forcing Nurse to call a timeout so that the medical staff could look at him. Doncic started to heat up again, and man, how can you defend him when he’s doing this:

The fourth quarter started with a piece of sombre news — Siakam would be out for the game with a strained right groin. Meanwhile, the Raptors continued to make a push with a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 96-87. Barnes turned up the QB’ing a notch, racking up assists on almost every single play, cutting the Mavs lead to 98-92.

Kidd sensed danger and promptly inserted Doncic back around the 8-minute mark. Achiuwa’s three-pointer cut the lead to 100-97, but the Raptors started to look gassed. The Raptors came up empty for several possessions, allowing the Mavs to push the lead back to seven. Barnes’ back-to-back buckets cut the lead to four, but Doncic hit a three-pointer on Barnes’ eye. Was this a mano-a-mano? Barnes responded with a hook shot.

Perhaps a sign of fatigue, the Raptors failed to secure critical rebounds off of Dallas’ next several misses, gifting the Mavs extra possessions in crunch time. Achiuwa foiled Doncic’s oop to Powell, but Barnes missed his layup, and Boucher’s putback was blocked. Doncic tried to hit the dagger but bricked the trifecta. Boucher’s corner three was off-target, but Achiuwa fought for the offensive rebound and drew a foul. Achiuwa made both freebies, cutting the lead to 108-105 with 35 seconds remaining.

Doncic drew a foul from Anunoby with 16 seconds left and split his freebies as the crowd chanted, “M-V-P!” Anunoby secured the rebound, and Nurse called for a timeout. Anunoby drove for a quick dunk, but the Raptors failed to foul the Mavs promptly, sending Dinwiddie to the line with three seconds remaining. Dinwiddie nailed both freebies, and Nurse called for another timeout. With a four-point Mavs lead, Anunoby’s three-pointer at the buzzer proved meaningless.

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These past three games showed us a glimpse of what it’s like to have Scottie Barnes running the point and life without Fred VanVleet. But tonight’s game highlights VanVleet’s importance to the team, as the team sorely missed his leadership, playmaking and shooting. With Siakam likely out for the next few games, it’s interesting to see how the team will respond, as they are losing the engine of their offense. Up next: The Raptors host old friend DeMar DeRozan and the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.

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