The Toronto Raptors managed to make it out of Dallas with their perfect record in tact after a hard fought 102-91 win over the Dallas Mavericks. The Dinos now improve to 4-0 with three games to go on their first road trip of the season.
The Raptors started the game on fire, quickly building a 24-16 lead before Dirk Nowitzki‘s Mavericks rallied back to take a 39-33 lead midway through the second quarter. From that point on both teams would remain within five points of one another until the final four minutes of the 4th quarter at which point Toronto pulled away thanks to timely baskets from Louis Scola and Kyle Lowry. With the win the Raptors become the only undefeated team remaining in the East and look to keep it that way tomorrow night against the fiery Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Raptors did a good job of establishing their bigs early, particularly Luis Scola. He and Jonas Valanciunas combined to pour in 10 points within the first 6 minutes of action. There seems to be a noticeable effort to look for Jonas out of timeouts which is a welcomed new development. Kyle Lowry took over a few times in the second and third quarters and while it’s great to have a player that can generate so many scoring opportunities its not a good sign that the offence can get completely cold without he and DeMar DeRozan. For the most part, the Raptors did a solid job of identifying their advantages and exploiting them. Nearly every time the Mavericks deployed their two or three PG line-up Dwane Casey had one of the wings, usually Demar, take the ball to the post. They didn’t get to the line often until late in the 4th but they found other ways to score efficiently.
Toronto came out of the gate playing some very strong defence which contributed to their early lead. Early in the second quarter, however, things started to look frantic and disorganized. Poor communication in transition defence lead to Dirk Nowitzki being left open for multiple threes which is completely unacceptable. The perimeter defence could have been sharper in general, though it appears that adequate adjustments were made at halftime. Pick and roll coverage was much better in the fourth quarter and kudos to Kyle Lowry and DeMarre Carroll for setting the tone. They ended up holding one of the leagues best shooting teams to just 38% from the field which is very impressive. As a side note, Cory Joseph has proven to be a very solid first line of defence and when coupled with Bismack Biyombo lurking around the paint the second unit is shaping up to be very effective on the defensive end.
The Dinos performed respectably on the boards tonight, with Scola grabbing the most. Despite having a prototypical centre the Mavericks do a great job of collecting rebounds as a team so the fact that they were able to grab 44 rebounds isn’t too surprising (they’re 6th in the NBA in rebounds per game.) The Raptors didn’t give up a single offensive rebound in the final 4 minutes of this game.
Game Ball: Louis Scola
I was halfway ready to give the game ball to Kyle Lowry until Scola came up big in the fourth quarter one possession after another. This guy is always in the right place at the right time. At 35 years old the veteran from Argentina has been around for a long time and is easily the most experienced player on the roster and you can just see it in the way he plays. He is remarkably effective with his positioning and that’s how he’s able to grab 10 rebounds almost without his feet ever leaving the ground. He also guarded Dirk better than anyone, which is surprising but not surprising. He scored many key buckets down the stretch (that three in the corner over Nowitzki) and came up with multiple crucial rebounds to finish with a double-double. Very solid overall game for Louis Scola.