Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 110-107 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
One — Miracle: Dwight Powell coasted in for a layup to give the Mavericks an 85-55 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter. At that time, the Raptors were shooting south of 20 percent from three, looked completely disinterested on defense, and were essentially waving the white flag in their second game without Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell, and Marc Gasol. What followed was nothing short of a miracle.
Two — Reverse: Toronto launched a 28-8 run in five minutes after going down by 30. The Mavericks let their foot off the gas pedal, while the Raptors hit overdrive. Without anything left to lose, Nick Nurse had the Raptors run a full-court press for nearly the entirety of the fourth quarter. He also put out his most energetic group — a bench lineup with Chris Boucher, Terence Davis, Malcolm Miller, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson — to trap and double team all over the floor. It worked. Nurse’s bench was hungry for minutes, borderline starving, and they played with a manic desperation that caught the Mavericks off guard.
Three — Furious: The Raptors are at their best when they swarm opponents on defense. It’s the same formula that led to wins over the Sixers and the Lakers. Toronto’s advantage is that it’s deep and it’s athletic, and Nurse is willing to try every trick in the book. When the Raptors force turnovers and get out on the fast break, they can compete with anyone. This isn’t the first time the trio of Boucher, Davis, and Hollis-Jefferson have overwhelmed a supposedly superior opponent. The Mavericks learned that lesson the hard way. Dallas committed 22 turnovers and lost 47-21 in the fourth quarter.
Four — Captain: Kyle Lowry made himself into an All-Star, then All-NBA, and a champion in this building, so this is not said lightly. Tonight was his finest performance, and it was unbelievable to witness in person. Lowry led a group of third-stringers on the biggest comeback in over a decade (and the biggest in franchise history) in just over a quarter, and he factored into every single play. He orchestrated the chaotic defense, he stepped up to drill massive threes, and got so hot that the Mavericks triple teamed him for every possession down the stretch. Nurse said he “never seen anything like it” in regards to Lowry’s fourth quarter performance.
Five — Genius: On top of his 32 points, Lowry also came up with two brilliant plays to win the game. With two minutes left in the fourth, Dallas swung the ball to Kristaps Porzingis rolling down the lane for what was surely an easy dunk, except Lowry rotated over, absorbed the full momentum of Porzingis in his chest, and forced him into a travel. Then, with the Mavericks taking the lead with two freebies, Lowry raced down the floor, came off one screen at half court, before zipping down the lane to draw Porzingis on the help. And just when the Mavericks thought they had Lowry trapped and the win in hand, Lowry flipped a pass to Boucher rolling to the basket for the dunk.
Six — Hustle: Boucher’s activity is legitimately game-changing, and tonight was a perfect example. It would not have been feasible for the Raptors to trap and press full court without Boucher’s length and athleticism guarding the back line. Boucher is not only a deterrent at the basket, but he’s also the fastest big in the league in terms of his closeouts. On multiple occasions in the fourth quarter, Boucher closed out from inside the paint and still record blocks on three-point shooters.
Seven — Clutch: Boucher collected the key defensive rebound on Dallas’ last shot at salvation. The Raptors’ defense forced Jalen Brunson into a pull-up jumper from 20-feet out with less than two seconds left, and Boucher corralled the miss with his infinite wingspan. There were some nerves in the building as Boucher stepped to the line for the two free throws, and the in-arena host instructed fans to pipe down. But before those words even came through the speakers, Boucher had already swished the first of his two shots, and followed through on the second to seal the win. There was absolutely no hesitation whatsoever.
Eight — Fearless: Davis makes plenty of rookie mistakes, and there’s plenty for him to improve upon, but the one thing in his favour is that he isn’t afraid. Davis nailed two threes, and drilled three free throws as part of the fourth-quarter comeback, and at no point did he look nervous. It was a carbon copy of his breakout performance against the Lakers. Davis stays calm under pressure, similar to his mentor Fred VanVleet.
Nine — Reward: Nurse made the right call with sticking to his bench. VanVleet eventually checked in for Miller after he missed two wide-open looks, but Nurse didn’t mess with the energy and momentum of his reserves. The silver lining to this is that Serge Ibaka, OG Anunoby, Pat McCaw and VanVleet should have more than enough left in the tank for Toronto’s back-to-back in Indiana.
Ten — Tenacious: This game is a good reminder of what makes the Raptors successful. They need to play with all-out energy and a total commitment to defense from start to finish in order to compete, especially now that Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell, and Marc Gasol are out of the lineup. If they play as hard as they did in the fourth quarter, the Raptors can compete with any team in the league.
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