The Toronto Raptors continued their road trip with a stop in Texas to take on the Dallas Mavericks. Undefeated on their home court before tonight, the Mavs’ season has been highlighted by incredible 3-point shooting and the highlight play by their guard duo of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the Raps. Right from tip, the pace of the game was stifling. Both teams ran the floor in transition and clogged passing lanes to generate turnovers so they could get out and run. Every loose ball and rebound felt like a fight, and by the end of the half, 10 players from each team had seen the floor.
The energy of this game was tangible and despite a few slowdowns, was dominated by transition play, giving the Raptors a massive edge in the paint. Pascal had what was probably his best game of the season, and strong bench play helped contribute to the Raptors’ 127-116 win.
The Raptors won the tip and took control early, with O.G. draining his first 3-pointer off the jump, and then a second shortly after, off of a turnover. It didn’t take long for the Mavericks to pick up the pace and clean up their offensive game though, leading to an 11-0 run to put themselves up by 8. A mix of strong 3-point shooting and the guard tandem of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving defined the Mavericks’ play for the first few minutes, along with the contributions from Derrick Jones Jr. who exhibited skilled cuts to the rim, chipping in 9 points. A timeout by the Raps helped organize the offence, and the Raptors hustled to keep within reach throughout the first quarter, mostly through the transition play and solid post scoring of Pascal as the 3-ball stopped falling for the Raptors, closing the quarter 27 - 33.
After being a healthy scratch against San Antonio, Chris Boucher brought energy off the bench. As soon as he checked in at the start of the second, it was obvious he came ready to play. Within the first few seconds he hit a 3-pointer that must’ve knocked the lid off the rim, as it was followed up by Trent Jr. hitting two more. Although he didn’t play a long shift he managed to log 7 points, 2 boards, and a big block on perfect shooting from the floor. He tied up the game on a wild shot high off the glass, but the lead shifted a few times throughout the quarter. O.G. and Schröder chipped in a few points each, along with Pascal who finished the half with 16 to help put the Raptors up as the clock was winding down, ending 62-58.
Trailing at the half isn’t unfamiliar for the Mavericks, and their confidence coming into the half showed in the early minutes. The pace was far more controlled in the second half and while it still featured transition play, there were far more set defences that both teams had to work to attack. Pascal came up big offensively for the Raptors by way of a tough fadeaway and transition play, but free throws by Kyrie and Luka and solid 3-point shooting by Grant Williams kept the game close. Pascal’s offensive flow continued, helping lead the Raptors on a 11-0 run with some help from O.G. that helped them dominate the quarter. Dallas attempted a run, but a time-out by Darko quashed it, coming out of the stoppage with the substitution of Scottie who showed some aggression in the paint, helping the Raptors end the quarter 99-88.
In the fourth quarter, Kyrie came to life at the start, scoring 7 points early for the Mavericks. The Raptors’ offence didn’t miss a beat despite the renewed energy from the Mavs, with Malachi draining a 3 ball and Scottie gradually turned up the energy to start making his own shots despite a slow offensive start to the game. Dennis Schröder also came up big in the fourth quarter, getting under the skin of Mavericks players and helping the Raptors maintain their double digit lead through facilitation and his shiftiness scoring around the rim. After the exertion from the first three quarters, the pace in the closing minutes felt slow, especially with the significant gap in the score. The Mavs tried fouling late in the quarter to gain possessions, but it was futile as the Raptors held out their double digit lead to hand Dallas their first home loss of the year.
The discussion around Pascal’s change in usage this year has been overshadowing his play so far this season, but he has appeared to struggle in the first few games of the season. Of course, these concerns are fairly premature given the changes to the offensive system and the fact that we’re still in single digit games. Pascal bounced back mightily tonight, showing far more of his true form that Raps fans have grown accustomed to. Pascal’s touch was on full display, on postups and in transition, and it was really encouraging to see him return to form contributing 31/12/5 on the night, shooting 60% from the field.
The pace of this game suited the Raptors perfectly. Scottie, Pascal, and O.G. thrived in the game, getting wide open dunks, mismatches low in the post, and wide-open shots as a result of the defence of the Mavericks failing to set up or getting back slowly. The Mavericks biggest weakness tonight was the Raptors’ greatest strength. Loose balls and turnovers led to transition opportunities, and the Raptors took advantage in a big way that helped secure them the victory. They outworked and outran them at every opportunity that was ultimately the difference-maker in this game.
Bench Making Strides
Despite struggling earlier in the season, the bench made big contributions tonight. Malachi Flynn played probably his best game of the season (if not one of the best games we’ve seen from him), managing solid defence on Kyrie despite the overwhelming challenge of guarding him. Offensively he contributed as well, with 8/4/3 in less than 15 minutes on the floor. Gary Trent Jr. also came through for the Raptors in a big way, contributing 16 points, including shooting 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. Chris Boucher helped with 10 points on perfect shooting to help solidify solid play for the bench that hopefully continues.
The Raptors will look to continue their winning streak against Boston on Saturday, November 11, when they visit TD Garden.