Earlier today, Toronto announced that starting point guard Kyle Lowry would be rested for tonight’s matchup against the gritty Dallas Mavericks. Resting him might have been the reason this game was so much closer than many expected. Two teams on opposite ends of the NBA spectrum found themselves in a trench fight all game long.
The Mavericks came out ready to play, while the Raptors, on their second night of a back-to-back were clearly gassed in the first. Harrison Barnes attacked early and often and ended the first quarter with nine points. Although he did not start, Nerlens Noel came off the bench to give Dallas a nice lift by putting in six points and stealing it twice. DeMar DeRozan led the way for the Raptors in the first with 11 points; he also took eight (!!!) free throws in that quarter. Although the Mavs looked like the better team, Toronto still took an early lead: 29-27.
The Mavericks scored 33 points in the second quarter, which gave themselves 60 points going into halftime. Toronto, who is the best home team in the NBA and the best team in the Eastern Conference, has only allowed 60 or more points in a first half six times this season. Maverick rookie Dennis Smith Jr. scored 12 points and was a big part of the Mavericks’ successful first half. Dallas went into break with a six-point lead.
The third quarter was much closer, but Jonas Valanciunas became a real issue for the Mavericks; he led the way for Toronto with 16 points and 12 rebounds before entering the fourth. But after one of the most electric Maverick dunks of the season by Dorian Finney-Smith, Dallas found themselves with a double-digit lead over the best team in the east. However, that double-digit lead did not last long. Toronto made a five-point run in the last 40 seconds of the third quarter and cut it down to six once again.
The final quarter was a seesaw affair. Dallas managed to keep Toronto at arm’s length almost the entire quarter, but DeRozan would not let his team fall to the lottery-bound Mavericks. The game got cut down to just four points entering the final four minutes of the game, which meant another clutch game for Dallas. The home crowd in Toronto began to roar and may have been the deciding factor. After DeRozan tied the game at 106, both the Mavericks and the Raptors had their respective chances to win it in the final minute of the fourth. But Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes missed their chances for Dallas, while DeRozan and Ibaka missed theirs for Toronto; the game went to an improbable overtime.
Overtime opened with two electric scoring plays by Dennis Smith Jr.: one drive and dunk, and one ankle-breaking crossover jumper. But Toronto came back with three back-to-back…to back threes by Delon Wright, DeMar DeRozan and Fred VanFleet to give their team the lead. Valanciunas was sent to the line with 10.7 seconds left to play and split a pair of free throws, but the Mavericks could not come away with the defensive rebound on the second. Toronto sealed the game at the line: 122-115. This was Toronto’s 11th straight win, which is a franchise record for the Raptors and league-high winning streak.
Harrison Barnes led the way with 27 points, five rebounds and three assists. Dennis Smith Jr. has been hitting his stride the past couple of games; he finished this one with 19 points, four assists and four rebounds. It was a valiant effort by the Mavericks, but it just was not enough. The Mavericks slip to 22-47 but should walk away with their heads held high after tonight. Dallas plays their second night of a back-to-back tomorrow night against the Brooklyn Nets.
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