In the locker room afterwards, there were references to the 25-point comeback against the Detroit Pistons earlier this season. Other, more veteran followers of the team talked about a win in Lenny Wilkens’ last year in 2003 in which the Raptors had just eight healthy bodies and three of the guys on 10-day contracts. But for sheer off-the-charts craziness none could have been better than Tuesday’s win in Dallas.
No Andrea Bargnani. No Jose Calderon. Only eight healthy bodies (Amir Johnson and Leandro Barbosa were both playing at well below 100% health) to begin the game with and then losing Linas Kleiza after 30 minutes to an ejection and Jerryd Bayless for the final nine minutes with a sprained ankle, and the Raptors still won?
Bookies in Vegas would have flown you out there on their dime had you said you were willing to bet the Raptors large in this one.
The final was 84-76 against a 24-5 Mavericks team that was coming off one of their most complete wins of the season just a night before in Oklahoma City.
Yes, the Mavs were without the services of leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki, but even that loss paled in comparison to what the Raptors were missing.
Triano had said before the game that the only way the Raptors had any chance to win this one given their injury situation was for every player to have a great game.
He pretty much got the impossible.
“Credit those guys in the locker room, they did a tremendous job, they competed and they played hard,” Triano said. “They didn’t hang their heads, and I’m proud of them.”
Johnson was as hobbled by his bad back against the Mavs as he was against the Memphis Grizzlies a night earlier but he still managed to have seven points and six rebounds in 42 minutes. Leandro Barbosa was doubtful about an hour before tip but played 28 minutes on a bum knee and dominated in the final nine minutes after Bayless went out with a bad ankle.
And the rookie Ed Davis was exceptional leading the Raptors with 17 points and 12 rebounds, tossing in three blocked shots and three steals to boot.
He became even more important after Kleiza was tossed in the third quarter after being hit with two quick technicals by referee Bob Delaney.
“It was a great team effort,” said Bayless, adding he expects to play Friday in Houston after X-rays on his ankle were negative. “Everyone did their job. We have to continue to hold our cool a little bit, I mean the T’s were a little bit unnecessary, but I think it was the emotion of the game.”
Holding their cool was precisely what Toronto did every time the veteran Mavs, who came into the game with a 24-5 record, made a run.
“I think that’s a credit to how well they played and we just weren’t good enough,” said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle. “When it came time to put it all together we just came up short. It was a disappointing loss but I would credit Toronto more on their effort and how they played. They won the game, we didn’t give it to them.”
Yes, Dallas was without all-star forward Dirk Nowitzki but there’s still enough talent on a roster that includes Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and Caron Butler that the Toronto win could be considered one of the biggest upsets of the NBA season so far.
“(We) just kept encouraging these guys and kept talking to them, (trying to) come up with something we could score on and something we could get stops with,” said Triano. “We didn’t talk about morale or anything, our guys all stayed real positive and that was a key part.”
Toronto, which had dropped its last 10 games in Dallas and had lost nine of its previous 11 overall, got 12 points each from Amir Johnson and Leandro Barbosa.
“Ed stepped up, Amir played well, and I thought all our bigs played extremely well,” Triano said.
Jason Terry scored 18 points and Caron Butler 15 for the Mavericks, who had won 17 of their previous 18.
Dallas led in the game’s first minute, but trailed the rest of the way while setting a season-low for points scored.
The Mavericks got as close as 71-68 with 7:41 left, but the Raptors answered with an 8-0 run capped by Davis’ layup with 4:05 to play.
The Raptors held a 48-24 edge on points in the paint and a 42-35 rebounding advantage. Toronto had 25 fast-break points to nine for Dallas, outhustling the older Mavericks for most of the night.
Taking away the 27 points in the second quarter, the Mavericks scored 49 points in the remaining three quarters. Toronto didn’t have a standout quarter in terms of scoring, but when you taking into account the 38 points in the paint the Raptors were able to score, that spelled doom for the Mavericks. 38 points is quite a bit in that department but that’s actually below the season average for points in the paint allowed for the Mavericks. Dallas came in to tonight’s match-up allowing 40.2 points in the paint. What was the weapon that allowed the Raptors easy access into the lane, "their penetration," said Tyson Chandler. "They have some quick guards that kept getting into the paint and they were able to dump it off to the big guys, they were able to finishing at the rim."
Despite the struggles in the defeat, Rick Carlisle was unwilling to allow the absence of Dirk Nowitzki to be the sole reason for the defeat, "to get into that would be making excuses, and I don’t think that’s appropriate," Carlisle said. "We just weren’t good enough." The Mavericks will need to improve and improve quickly as they face the best the league has to offer. The rival San Antonio Spurs come to town on Thursday night for the final game of 2010.
"Sometimes, it’s Christmas for the other team," Shawn Marion said.
Indeed, other than writing a get-well-soon card to Nowitzki and having every other Maverick sign it, there wasn’t much to analyze about this one.
The Raptors give up more than 105 points per game, but the Mavericks struggled mightily to nudge their total past 75. It was easily their lowest production of the season.
The 11-20 Raptors – playing without leading scorer Andrea Bargnani and guards Jose Calderonand Peja Stojakovic – had lost nine of their last 11, but when they saw Nowitzki wearing a snappy gray suit, they figured the Mavericks were there for the taking. And they were right.
"We had a lot of turnovers  and we were in too much of a trying-to-make-things-happen mode, and not trusting the team and the system," said coach Rick Carlisle. "I would credit them rather than saying we gave it to them. We’ve played strong defense a lot of the time, but we never made that stand tonight, and that was our undoing."
A miserable offense didn’t help. As much as the emotional win at Oklahoma City was a total team effort Monday, this was a total team letdown.
The Mavericks missed 16 of 20 shots in the first quarter, fell behind by a dozen points and never fully recovered.
Toronto took advantage of being overlooked by the Mavs and went on to stun Dallas, 84-76, behind a career-high 17 points and a career-high tying 12 rebounds from rookie Ed Davis.
"I just think we kind of took them lightly,” Mavs guard DeShawn Stevenson admitted. "We couldn’t get to the hole and get the shots that we usually get.”
Those shots weren’t there because the Mavs were without forward Dirk Nowitzki, who commands a great amount of attention when he’s on the court. Nowitzki sat out Tuesday’s game with a sprained right knee, and no one stepped up to fill the void.
The 76 points were the fewest the Mavs (24-6) have scored this season. And it came against a Toronto team that’s 11-20 and had a bevy of its key players injured.
This loss can’t just be blamed on missing Dirk Nowitzki, although the Mavs certainly could have used the MVP candidate’s shooting touch. (Of course, Toronto could say the same about Andrea Bargnani.) The Mavs simply played too soft to beat even a subpar opponent.
Consider points in the paint to be exhibit A. The Raptors had a 48-24 advantage, which is absolutely ridiculous.
Toronto also whipped the Mavs on the glass. A team outrebounded by a 42-35 margin at home doesn’t deserve to win.
And the Mavs’ offense was absolutely atrocious. They matched a season high for fewest points scored while shooting only 41.3 percent from the floor and 22.7 percent from 3-point range.
The Mavs played like a team that expected to be able to mail in a win. The result was the Mavs’ second loss in the last 19 games, a whipping at the hands of the 11-20 Raptors.
DeMar DeRozan has gotten a lot of criticism lately, with a lot of people questioning his future, but in the the last ten games he’s averaged 14.5 ppg on 47% shooting, while getting to the line 5 times a game. Not spectacular, but numbers more in line with what was expected of him at the beginning of the year. And best of all, his jumper actually is starting to fall with some consistency. Against Dallas, he hit 6-10 from outside 10 feet, including a 23 foot jumper with about a minute left that pretty much sealed the game for the Raptors. It seems as though he’s starting to turn the corner, which is nice to see. He still needs to improve his defense, but he’s shown flashes of ability in that area which makes me think he’s still got the potential to be a good defender.
Jerryd Bayless had a much better game against Dallas than he did in his last start against Chicago, even though he scored 16 fewer points and shot 2-10 from the field. Why? Because he actually did his job as a PG against Dallas. Against Chicago, he might have scored well and played good defense against Derrick Rose, but his inability to run the offense killed the Raptors’ chances. In Dallas, Bayless still played excellent defense, but dished out 8 assists while helping the Raptors offense run much more smoothly. When he went out, I thought the Raptors would be in trouble.
They dared the Mavericks to score from the outside and the help defense is very good. Ed Davis has his best game as a rookie. 17 points, 12 boards, 3 steals and 3 block shots. He showed more energy than the entire Dallas Mavericks team. Most of his points came from hustle, running the lane on a break, getting offensive boards. Amir Johnson played 42 minutes despite a bad back. DeRozan showed a lot of confidence in his jump shot and balance his game well. Bayless played hard before his ankle injuries (probably will miss at least a few games). Julian Wright played great defense when he was on the court. One negative note, Kleiza should know better, his team was down on healthy bodies and he should have stopped arguing with the ref after the first tech. That’s being selfish and dumb. Otherwise, everyone come up and played like a team. As a Raptor fan, I am very proud of the effort tonight. This is probably the most impressive win of the year, the most unlikely win in franchise history.