What a frustrating ball game to have watched if you’re a Raptors fan. A piss poor effort out of the gates basically handed the Mavericks a double digit lead, and though the effort level definitely picked up as the game went along, the Raptors were stuck between a deficit of nine to 13 points for the majority of the second half, prompting Jack Armstrong to utter the phrase of the night: “either make it exciting or put me out of my misery.”

Here are some thoughts on the incredibly frustrating game:

Mavericks 109, Raptors 104

- The defence, or lack thereof, is generally concerning right now, especially considering how tight the D looked out of the gates last season, but the major defensive concern is the first quarter. The Mavs dropped a 36 in the opening frame on 60 per cent shooting, the second time in as many nights the Raptors have allowed 30 points or more on 60 per cent shooting to open the game.

- A perfect example of the lack of effort I’m harping on was the fact that the Mavericks were out-rebounding the Raptors 31-13 at one point in the first half. The final advantage on the glass was 47-38 for Dallas.

- Andrea Bargnani enjoyed his best performance of the young season on Wednesday in Dallas and his overall numbers of 25 points and nine rebounds are obviously impressive, but Bargnani’s effort level to start the game was nowhere near what the Lowry-less Raptors needed from him tonight. On pure talent alone, Andrea should have been the best player on the floor in Dallas, and his numbers indicate that, but he chose to wait too long to prove it in this game.

- Bargnani’s lackadaisical effort in the first half was magnified by the fact that he was sharing the frontcourt with an energetic and aggressive Jonas Valanciunas, who for the second straight night, was the only Raptor who came out ready to play from the opening tip. Unfortunately, Valanciunas battled foul trouble, picking up five fouls (a couple of those fouls were pathetic ‘rookie calls’) in just 10:29 of action.

- Two guys whose efforts were monumental in getting the Raptors back in the game, or at least keeping the game somewhat manageable, were DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson. DeRozan enjoyed one of the more balanced games I’ve ever seen from him, finishing with 24 points, six rebounds and seven assists in 40 minutes of action while knocking down tough shot after tough shot in the second half. Amir finished with 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting to go along with 11 boards, and more than anyone else, it was Amir’s effort on both ends of the floor that stuck out in the second half.

It wasn’t all good for DeMar though…

- Landry Fields continues to pile up the awful performances in his short time as a Raptor. Whether it’s missing open threes, finding a way to brick layups or even bobbling balls when he has a hilariously clear path to the basket, Fields just keeps finding ways to one-up (or one-down) himself. Dwane Casey has to be thinking about making an early change to the starting lineup if Landry doesn’t pick up his play within the next week. I don’t doubt Fields’ effort or desire to help this team, but right now, he’s not doing anything resembling “helping” a basketball team.

- A random observation, regarding Aaron Gray. On Saturday night, I mentioned that Gray’s passing out of the post against the Nets really took me by surprise, as I had no idea the big man had that vision in him. Well apparently he doesn’t, because the “White Panther” couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with some of his passes out of the post in Dallas. Did anyone else notice that?

- Regular RaptorBlog readers and listeners know that I’m a big Dwane Casey guy, and I assume most Raptors fans are too, but Casey’s decision to stick with a lineup of John Lucas III, Alan Anderson, Dominic McGuire, Quincy Acy (who made his NBA debut in this game) and Amir Johnson for a significant stretch of the game was puzzling and frustrating. At first I thought the five man unit would simply be used to play out the final 55 seconds of the third quarter, but the lineup remained intact for the first few minutes of the fourth quarter as well, and it cost them. The Raps were down eight before the offensively challenged combination took the floor, but found themselves down 15 by the end of their four minute stretch, highlighted by McGuire being called for a five second violation on an inbounds out of a timeout.

- In one of the more interesting ways to heckle or troll Raptors fans I’ve ever seen, someone was sitting courtside in Dallas wearing a Canadian Mountie uniform, or at least that’s what it looked like on television.

- While it’s easy to pile on the Raptors for another poor start, the Mavericks also deserve some credit. O.J. Mayo’s filling the bucket, the team as a whole is making shots when they need to, and Rick Carlisle, one of the most underrated coaches in years, has this team playing very well right now considering the injuries to Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion (the Mavs were also without Elton Brand tonight). If the Mavs can even come close to keeping this level of play up by the time Dirk gets back on the floor, they may still be a factor in the West after all, though not at a title contending level.

Raptors Player of the Game: Amir Johnson – 18 Pts, 6/7 FG, 6/7 FT, 11 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 1 TO in 28:51 (DeMar gets some serious consideration here, but Bargs woke up a little too late for my liking)

Mavericks Player of the Game: O.J. Mayo – 22 Pts, 8/17 FG, 3/6 3PT, 3/6 FT, 5 Reb, 6 Ast, 1 Stl in 38:04

The Raptors host the 76ers on Saturday and the Jazz to open next week’s slate of games on Monday before taking on the Pacers and Celtics in two more road games. Even with Kyle Lowry, this team isn’t good enough to pencil in wins against very many teams in this league, but if they want to avoid a disastrous start to the season, they would probably be wise to bring their absolute “A” game into the home matchups against Philly and Utah, because those are two games this team can grab if they play up to their potential.

Lastly, if you’re holding out hope that Lowry can make it back for one of those games, there’s this: