Toronto Raptors make a historic comeback against the Dallas Mavericks

Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images) /

After being down thirty points late in the third quarter, the Raptors’ defensive efforts and hot fourth-quarter shooting willed them to the greatest comeback in Toronto Raptors history.

It’s not often that an NBA arena is electrified in December, giving fans a playoff-type of excitement in their gut. On Sunday night, in an interconference matchup between the Dallas Mavericks and Toronto Raptors, fans at Scotiabank Arena were awarded the rare opportunity to feel a type of energy that is typically only felt in the spring when the playoffs roll around.

Even without two of the NBA’s top stars in Luka Doncic and Pascal Siakam out of the game due to their respective injuries, the secondary stars on each team – Kyle Lowry for the Raptors, and Kristaps Porzingis for the Mavericks, provided an all-time classic contest.

The beginning of the game was ugly. Both teams combined to open the gates shooting 2-for-14, and there were a mere nine points scored in total after the first 5 minutes and 17 seconds of action, despite being in the Raptors’ favour – a 9-0 lead.

After the Raptors took a commanding 12-point lead early in the first quarter, the Mavericks surged back, and wouldn’t stop until late in the third.

The Raptors’ abysmal three-point-shooting, lazy turnovers, and uninspired defensive effort dug themselves into an abyssal hole. The scoreboard read 85-55, a 30 point lead for the guys in blue, with only 14 minutes and 28 seconds remaining in the game. Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet had combined to shoot 2-for-15 from deep. Without Siakam, Marc Gasol, Norman Powell, or even Matt Thomas, there wasn’t much offensive firepower that the Raptors could rely on outside of their starting backcourt, and given how cold they were shooting, it would have been a struggle to hit 80 points.

The Mavericks were rolling, looking like they’d be able to beat anyone in the league, and the Raptors were looking like they couldn’t score against a team of statues. For the Raptors to win, they would have to outscore the Mavericks by over two points per minute going forward. To put that into perspective, they had only scored 1.6 points per minute leading up to that point and were giving up 2.5 points per minute on the other end. Going from a minus-0.9 per minute, to a plus-2.0 was about as probable as your breakfast eating you, instead of you eating it.

It’s nearly impossible to calculate the exact probability of the Raptors’ chances of coming back to win at that point, but according to common sense, they were about as slim as Chris Boucher. Theoretically, mathematically, and historically, the game was already over.

That’s not how Nick Nurse, Kyle Lowry, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, or Chris Boucher saw it though. Never underestimate the heart of a champion.

57 seconds into the fourth quarter, Terence Davis banged home a tribeca from the corner to cut the Dallas lead to 20. Nick Nurse ordered a full-court-press from his lengthy squad. Malcolm Miller and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson used their combined 14-foot wingspan to force Jalen Brunson into a turnover, which resulted in a Raptors layup to cut the lead down to 18, forcing Rick Carlisle into a timeout.

An 18-point game with ten minutes and fifty seconds remaining. The tides were turning, the Raptors crowd was revived, and there was suddenly a chance for the Raptors to make the greatest comeback in franchise history. It was still improbable, but they were down, not out.

The Raptors’ full-court-pressure upheld, their defense was rejuvenated, the Mavericks’ turnovers piled up, and like a Christmas miracle, the whole Raptors squad was red hot from behind the arc. Nick Nurse went full-on Coach Carter and made the fourth quarter Raptors unrecognizable from what they were prior to that.

Fast forward 10 minutes and 18 seconds, and the 30 point Dallas lead was like a tall table about to be flipped on its head. Mark Cuban sat courtside looking embarrassed to be at the game. Rick Carlisle feared for his reputation. Kristaps Porzingis was wishing that the New York Knicks fulfilled his wishes and traded him to Toronto instead of Dallas. Kyle Lowry heard 19,800 fans chant his name in unison, indicating that he is indeed, undoubtedly, the greatest Raptor of all-time.

Now he had to ice the cake and put the cherry on top. The score was 107-106 in favour of the Mavericks, at Scotiabank Arena with 32.2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Kyle Lowry controlled the ball in the backcourt as he masterfully planned out the demise of Dallas in front of him.

He sprinted by a Hollis-Jefferson screen at the high-45 to slam Dorian Finney-Smith out of his way and eliminate him from the play entirely, before dashing by Tim Hardaway Jr. and finding the 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis lurking at the rim.

Noticing that his man had overcommitted to helping, Chris Boucher made a quick dive to the paint, Kyle Lowry recognized the cutter, and the reigning G-League MVP threw down a thunderous slam between three Mavericks defenders.

The Raptors led. The Dallas lead was decimated. What seemed impossible became a reality. The greatest comeback of the decade, and the greatest comeback in Raptors history, was just 25.8 seconds and one defensive stop away from mounting.

Thanks to some quick defensive rotations, and the leaping ability of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jalen Brunson bricked a mid-range jumper for the win. Chris Boucher came down with a rebound, was fouled by Brunson, coolly walked up to the line, and nailed both free throws. Porzingis let the ball fly from the opposite end of the court, giving shades of Stephen Curry’s heave in Oakland on June 13th which dubbed the Raptors NBA Champions.

Next. Top-five performances from week nine. dark

Again, the Raptors updated the recordbooks. It was the first 30+ point comeback in the NBA in over a decade since the Sacramento Kings routed the Chicago Bulls on their home court after being down 35.

Up twelve, down thirty, up three, history.