Image Credit – Creator: Tom Pennington, Credit: Getty Images, Copyright: 2018 Getty Images
On Saturday night the Dallas Mavericks hosted the defending NBA Champion Toronto Raptors at the American Airlines Center. The Mavs were attempting to bounce back from a disappointing week, losing 3 of the last 4 games including two losses to the lowly New York Knicks.
Last year the American Airlines center was a fortress for the Mavs, 24 of their 33 wins were at home in the 2018-2019 season. Coming into this game Dallas was 2-3 at home this season. Granted, 2 of those losses (Blazers, Lakers) I feel like the Mavs got robbed, but the record is what it is. Hopefully this 4 game home stand can right the ship and re-establish home court advantage for the Mavericks.
The Toronto Raptors came into this game 8-3, second best record in the East and tied for the fourth best record in the entire NBA. Pascal Siakam is playing like an NBA MVP candidate through the first 11 games. He is averaging 27.2 points on 49% shooting including 37% on his 6 three point attempts a game. Siakam has also been adding 9.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists per game. Last season Siakam averaged just under 17 points and 7 rebounds and now this season, with Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard leaving, Siakam has taken another gigantic leap and is now a legitimate All-Star and MVP candidate through this short sample size. He has put the team on his back and kept the Toronto Raptors as competitors in the Eastern Conference despite losing one of the best players in the league.
Since Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green left in free agency and the Raptors did not really sign any big free agents to replace those guys, the current Raptors starters are playing big minutes every night. Siakam, Kyle Lowry, and Fred VanVleet hardly come off the floor, playing 38, 36, and 37 minutes per game respectively.
The Raptors started out the game hot with a 10-3 run in the first few minutes to force Rick Carlisle into taking and early timeout. The Mavs quickly fired back with a 15-0 run of their own to take a 18-10 lead with 5:20 to go in the first quarter. Dallas continued their dominance from that point forward through the end of the first quarter, finishing up with a strong 32-22 lead after one.
Most of the first quarter damage was done by Luka Doncic who ended the quarter with 14 points, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds. Kleber chipped in with a solid 5 points and 3 rebounds himself. It was good to see the Mavericks establish Kristaps Porzingis in the post early. Although he didn’t score in those touches he was able to find wide open teammates on the perimeter when the defense collapsed. The Mavs were able to get 3 offensive rebounds in the first (2 by KP with that low post position), leading to 10 2nd chance points.
The Raptors roared back throughout the 2nd, taking a 60-53 lead to close out the half. At least the Mavs were able to close out the quarter on a high note with this MONSTER jam by Porzingis.
The game continued its back-and-forth trend as the Mavs evened things up halfway through the third behind great team offense with crisp passes and timely cutting.
This is what MFFLs envisioned for this team coming into the season. Luka breaking down the defense, finding an open shooter, then swinging it around the horn until the defense can no longer rotate. That is the type of offense that brought the Mavs a Championship back in 2011 and it is the type of offense that can get this 2019-2020 team into the Playoffs. With the great teamwork, Dallas was able to completely erase the halftime deficit and go into the fourth quarter with a 78-77 lead.
The Mavericks took control in the fourth quarter, having an answer to every one of Toronto’s surges. It was really a great night defensively for Maxi all ever, whose main job was trying to slow down the red hot Pascal Siakam. Maxi was blanketing Siakam all night, forcing him to go 6-24 from the field tonight and limiting him to just 15 points. Maxi only got credit for only one blocked shot and no steals but he made everything Siakam was trying to do very difficult, especially down the stretch.
Kristaps Porzingis looked much more comfortable on the floor tonight and showed up in a big way on the stat sheet with 20 points, 15 rebounds (6 offensive), 2 assists, and one block. He really established himself as a force in the paint between his rebounding and beautiful spinning fade-away in the lane. This is the kind of game that KP and the Mavs can build on. Even though the Raptors are a bit depleted, with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka out with injuries, they are still a very formidable team every night.
In the end it was a solid 110-102 Mavericks win over the reigning Champs. All 5 Mavericks starters were in double figures and the defense looked much more consistent than it has in past games. The Mavs did no shoot well in this game, 37-88 (42%) from the field and 9-39 (23%) from three points range. Their strong defense and 12 offensive rebounds helped them overcome that poor shooting.
Key Stat Lines:
Luka Doncic – 26 pts, 15 reb, 7 ast, 2 stl, 7 turnovers. 5-14 from the field and 15-19 from free throw.
Kristaps Porzingis – 20 pts, 15 reb, 2 ast, 1 blk.
Seth Curry – 15 pts, 6 reb, 5 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk.
Delon Wright – 15 pts, 4 reb, 1 ast, 3 stl.
Pascal Siakam – 15 pts, 3 reb, 7 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk.
Normal Powell – 26 pts, 6 reb.
Fred VanVleet – 24 pts, 5 reb, 7 ast.
The Mavs have a pretty quick turnaround for their next game as they take on the rival San Antonio Spurs Monday night as the Mavs continue their 4 game home stand. The Spurs have struggled so far this season, sitting at 5-8, good for 11th in the Western Conference and 4th in the Southwest Division.