Make it three wins in a row for the Toronto Raptors, who dominated on the defensive end to earn a 116-93 win over the Dallas Mavericks. It was a tale of two halves, as Toronto outscored Dallas 69-46 in the final two frames.
After beginning the season by losing eight of their first 10 games, the Raptors are now 5-8 and are beginning to look much more like the team fans are accustomed to seeing.
Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists while Chris Boucher registered another double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds. In a complete team effort, three other Raptors finished in double figures.
The Mavericks, who have dropped three in a row, were led by 23 points from Kristaps Porzingis while Luka Doncic finished with 15 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
For more on how it went down, here are some thoughts from the game…
1. Defensively sound
Historically, we've come to know the Raptors as a defensive team but that defensive identity has wavered early on in the season.
This game felt like the most complete 48-minute defensive effort from Toronto this season.
Toronto held Dallas to just 31-for-82 (38.3%) shooting from the field, including 9-for-36 (25.0%) shooting from deep. The Raptors also forced 16 turnovers, which led to 22 points.
Defence creating offence pic.twitter.com/XXYDKJRJXg- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 19, 2021
Much of the defensive dominance was a product of having a depth and rest advantage but Toronto has failed to make the most of that edge at times this season.
2. Lowry being Lowry
This felt like one of those signature Kyle Lowry performances.
In 35 minutes of action, the six-time All-Star led the way for Toronto, doing a bit of everything to finish with 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Lowry was extremely effficient, shooting 9-for-12 (75.0%) from the field and 3-for-5 (60.0%) from deep.
He got his teammates involved, got things done on both ends on the floor and in many ways, was the catalyst in Toronto taking over in the second half.
3. Guarding Luka
Another note on the defence - the Raptors have had a knack for making things difficult for opposing stars, employing different schemes and looks on the defensive end.
In this one, OG Anunoby, Stanley Johnson and Fred VanVleet were tasked with guarding Luka Doncic, who entered the night averaging 28.3 points per game, good for fourth in the league. He would fall quite shy of his average, finishing with 15 points (on 4-for-11 shooting), nine assists and seven rebounds.
That Doncic only attempted 11 shots is the biggest credit to Toronto's defence, which forced the ball out of his hands, forcing an undermanned Dallas team to make plays, which it was unable to do.
4. A shoutout to Stanley
I recently wrote on how Stanley Johnson is beginning to carve a role with this team with his defensive prowess.
As alluded to above, tonight was yet another example.
Johnson had a big hand in making life difficult for Doncic, crowding his space and using his physicality to allow the Mavs MVP to feel him in both full court and half-court situations. Doncic appeared to be frustrated with Johnson's defence, even trying to use his elbow to create space.
In 11 games, Johnson has now played in more minutes than he did all of last season. He finished this one with six points (on 2-for-3 shooting) in 21 minutes of action, bringing his minutes total for the season to 162, 12 more than he played over 25 games last season.
MAKE 'EM PAY, @iAmSJ pic.twitter.com/iKUA6XEu9x- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 19, 2021
5. An early exit for Carlisle
After two frustrating losses, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle didn't make it to the end of the first quarter in this one.
Visibly upset with sloppy play from his team and physical defence on a superstar in Doncic, Carlisle spoke his mind to officials, resulting in an ejection with 58 seconds remaining in the first.
With assistant coach Jamahl Mosley assuming coaching responsibilities, Carlisle's ejection fired up the Mavs, at least temporarily, as they used a big run in the second quarter to get back in the game after falling down by double digits.
But ultimately, they just couldn't hang.
6. Second half swing
Toronto was ice cold from the field in the first half and entered the half with things tied up at 47.
The second half was a different story.
After shooting just 2-for-17 from deep in the first half, the Raptors shot 5-for-8 from deep in the third quarter and finished the game shooting 12-for-33 from beyond the arc. To break that down, Toronto shot a red-hot 10-for-17 (58.8%) from 3-point range in the second half.
Perhaps the biggest second half turnaround was from Siakam, who had just four points (on 1-for-9 shooting) in the first half but bounced back by scoring 15 points (on 6-for-10 shooting) in the second half to snap out of a brief slump he had seemingly experienced over the past few games.
🗣️ COUNT IT pic.twitter.com/M7yQZ8RO2z- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 19, 2021
In total, Toronto outscored Dallas 69-46 in the second half. That made the difference. An undermanned Mavs squad didn't have enough on the second end of a back-to-back.
7. Boucher is at it again
When the NBA announced that Kevin Durant was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, it was revealed that Raptors reserve centre Chris Boucher had received enough votes to be considered a finalist.
He looked worthy of that consideration and then some, finishing with 21 points and 10 rebounds as well as three blocks, including another one of his signature blocked 3-pointers. 20 and 10 might not be the baseline but we've come to a point where these performances are no longer surprising.
8. What's next?
The Raptors continue a five-game homestand as they welcome the Miami Heat to Amalie Arena for games on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Friday, Jan. 22.
Catch you then.
More analysis to come.
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