Raptors 103 – Mavericks 99: Everyone in the pool!


The Raptors held on against a furious Dallas Mavericks comeback to grab a much-needed win.

The Toronto Raptors have had lots of luck lately, all of it bad. Misfortune continued last night, as the team found itself down two more players by halftime. Coach Dwane Casey had little choice but to empty his bench and hope for the best. Fortunately, the scrubs weren’t terrible, and the stars were shining; Toronto survived a Dallas Mavericks comeback attempt to escape with a 103 – 99 victory.

James Johnson tweaked his ankle in warmup, and Patrick Patterson, who was displaying “flu-like symptoms”, didn’t return after intermission. That left the Raptors with nine players, including three D-Leaguers: rookie guard Delon Wright, centre Lucas Nogueira and megaflop forward Anthony Bennett.

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The Raptors built up a 16-point lead in Q1, which was a huge and pleasant surprise to fans thoroughly exasperated by the team’s first quarter blues. A combination of fine shooting, and uncharacteristic misses from future Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitzki, pushed the Raptors to their best margin of the season after 12 minutes. They would need all of that bulge, as they “lost” the next three quarters.

Dec 22, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) dunks the ball against Dallas Mavericks in the first half at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

There was a joke briefly popular some years ago, when the NHL was notorious for violent play, to wit: “I went to the fights last night, and a hockey game broke out”. [har-de-har] That dusty wheeze crossed my mind last night. If there’s been a nastier, more physical game in my 20+ years of being a fan, I can’t remember it. When J.J. Barea entered the game for Dallas, he looked like a man on a mission: get in Kyle Lowry’s face, and make him mad enough to get technical fouls. Barea’s Mavericks buddies cheerfully pitched in, and the elbows were flying. While the Raptors pushed back, they didn’t earn any T’s.

Bismack Biyombo was also pounded mercilessly, and responded in an admirable manner, pulling down a personal-record 20 rebounds. Seven of those were on the offensive glass, which was three more than Dallas grabbed as a team. Biz displayed both superb positioning and exquisite timing, grabbing the ball at the top of its arc repeatedly.

Kyle Lowry had a double-double, though the second portion was rebounds, with 10. The Raptors totalled 53 boards to the Mavs’ 34, another key to this narrow win. Both Toronto swingmen, DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross, were efficient shooters. DeMar took only 17 shots, but totalled 28 points, including a most welcome 2 of 3 from distance. TRoss needed 9 shots for 16 points, including a pair of seal-the-deal free throws with 10 seconds to play.

Dallas’ Q4 comeback was led by its bench, as coach Rick Carlisle appeared to give up with 5:20 to play and down 16. Ex-Raptor Charlie Villanueva figured prominently in the Mavericks’ push, as did the pesky Barea.

Luis Scola looked bound for a turnover with the Raps’ lead at 2. He managed to pass to Lowry, who raced down the court, then dished at the hoop to DeRozan for a layup. Even that wasn’t enough, as the Mavs scored on the inbounds play. Only after Ross’ pair of FTs could the frantic crowd relax.

Next: Power Forwards for Raptors next season?

The Raptors will be in Milwaukee for a game the day after Christmas.

Putbacks: This game was never tied, nor had a lead change. Every Maverick played and scored. How weird is all that?…Anthony Bennett had 5 points in his 9+ minutes of play. He still appears a step behind the play at this level…DeRozan was charged with 7 turnovers, as he’s getting stripped of the ball regularly these days…Cory Joseph had 12 points, including 2 buckets from distance, but needs to take better care of the ball.