DeMar DeRozan toed the free throw line with 24 seconds left to play. His first toss barely grazed front iron, but his weakness was eminently forgivable. He had carried the Toronto Raptors all night, and his arms were tired. DD poured in a career-high 40 points, dragging his team back from another huge early deficit to a stunning victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
As in the Charlotte game, the Raps fell behind early. Lord only knows why they get off to such listless starts, but it’s no way to run a railroad. With 35 seconds left in Q1, the Mavs were ahead by 21, and the boobirds were in flight. Dirk Nowitzki was granted the night off, yet the Mavs had scored 34. The Raps’ interior defense, porous whenever Jonas Valanciunas sat down, was torched by journeymen liked DeJuan Blair. Jose Calderon had scored 10 points on open jumpers, and Kyle Lowry did nothing but miss (which was the case the entire game – Kyle was ill, and was zero of 10).
The second quarter was an inversion of the first, as Greivis Vasquez took up the slack from Kyle, scoring 11 points, including a pair from long range. DD couldn’t be stopped when he was open for his fadeaway jump shot, ending the half with 16. The Raps went into the break down by just 5. The third quarter was a seesaw affair, with Monte Ellis heating up for Dallas, while DD continued his refuse-to-lose act. The margin was stuck at 5, and seemed fate to remain there, until JV followed yet another DD circus jump shot with a short one off glass. The Raps forced a turnover, then Kyle stepped to the line for a pair – and missed the second…tie game. Jose was fouled(? – it was another odd night for the men in stripes), and he missed his first, to everyone’s shock. Fittingly, it was DD’s astonishing spinaround left-handed 3-point play which pushed the Raps to the lead they would never relinquish. Amir Johnson splashed a 3-ball, then an uncontested slam, and the Mavericks were done.
Chuck Hayes, the king of oddball stats, didn’t take a shot, but had 3 steals and 5 boards, and was plus-18. JV shook off his poor start to contributed hugely in the decisive fourth quarter, pulling down a bunch of rebounds as the Mavs’ one-&-done offense could only manage 12 points. A double-double for JV appeared highly unlikely early, but then so did 40 points for DeMar, or a comeback win.
The Raptors are in Philadelphia on Friday night, where it is to be hoped they have a sawed-off first quarter. Toronto fans would be most appreciative.