I could probably leave those two words as the entire recap, and people would find it understandable.
The last time the Raptors won in Dallas was 1999. Some decent, solid and pretty good Raptors teams have made attempts during the last decade, but all fell short. So with the Mavericks emerging as one of the best teams in the league this season, the Raptors being 10-20 and starting without Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon, I would have laughed in your face if you told me the Raps would be in this ball game, let alone would win it.
Yes, I know the Mavs were missing their best player and potential MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki, but if you look at the active rosters coming into tonight’s game, the difference in talent was still incredible. (Jason Kidd has nearly five-times as many career starts as the entire Raptors starting lineup in Dallas had)
Like the night before in Memphis, Toronto got off to a good start and built up an early double-digit lead. The Raps were up 23-13 after one quarter, but it was the team’s resilient second quarter that left me impressed. The Mavs went on a 12-0 run in less than three minutes to tie the ballgame, but instead of collapsing as usual, the young Raptors responded.
Toronto employed the “bend, don’t break” mentality fans have been waiting to see, and survived the Mavericks’ run. In fact, the Raptors actually responded so well that they were up by 13 again just minutes later. Another Mavs run cut the lead to just six at halftime, but the Raptors were showing they could hang around, and then some.
After a first half of ugly basketball, you had to expect Dallas to pick up the pieces in the second half. But it never really happened. The Raptors came up with timely stops and timely buckets in the third quarter to hold a semi-comfortable five point lead heading into the fourth.
The bonehead play of the game came via Linas Kleiza, who was ejected in the third after arguing his way into two technicals. Kleiza was arguing a traveling call that replay showed he had no business fighting. The demoralizing part for the short-handed Raptors was that Kleiza had been the team’s leading scorer (with 16 points) up to that point.
Later, Jerryd Bayless rolled his left ankle for the second time in the ball game, while also appearing to injure his knee. So now the Raptors were trying to pull off a massive upset on the road without their best player, without their starting point guard, without their leading scorer on the night and without their backup point guard.
Some how, they found a way.
While he chucked up a few head-scratchers, Leandro Barbosa also hit a couple of big shots in the fourth quarter and did a nice job of knowing when to slow the offence down late in the game.
The Raptors deserve all of the credit for pulling out the win, but the Mavericks also deserve to be dumped on for allowing it to happen.
They had their opportunities to take control, but it seemed every time the Raptors gave them a glimmer of hope, the Mavs shot themselves in the foot by settling for questionable jumpers or throwing the ball away. I bet most of you would have assumed the story would be the other way around.
If you’re looking for one group of players, or one player in particular to heap praise on, then look no further than Ed Davis and the Raptors’ post players. Davis had a career night playing against one of his dad’s old teams, and the combination of Davis, Amir Johnson and Joey Dorsey was a formidable force inside. They battled in the post on every possession, on both ends of the floor. They kept loose balls alive and got their hands on 50-50 rebounds, and contributed to the Raptors 48-24 advantage in points in the paint.
It must be said though, that part of the reason Davis, Johnson and Dorsey were able to dominate inside was that the refs seemed to be letting them play for most of the night. There were a number of occasions when a play that would usually result in a Raptors foul was left uncalled, and I do believe it contributed to the upset.
Considering that the last time I wrote a recap, I had to write about a disgraceful effort at the ACC, this was a refreshing 750 words. Like I’ve said before, if we tear this young team apart (as we should) when the effort isn’t there, then we must credit them when they pull off gritty, inspiring results like this.
Raptors Player of the Game: Ed Davis – 31 Min, 17 Pts, 6-8 FG, 5-8 FT, 12 Reb, 3 Stl, 3 Blk
Mavericks Player of the Game: Jason Terry – 35 Min, 18 Pts, 8-19 FG, 2-8 3Pt, 0-1 FT, 4 Reb, 6 Ast
Goat of the Game: DeShawn Stevenson – 20 Min, 2 Pts, 1-5 FG, 0-3 3Pt, 2 Ast, 1 TO