First things first: For those who did not watch the game, or did and couldn’t quite believe what they saw, Jonas Valanciunas played more than 30 minutes for only the 7th time this season and was not only on the floor during the fourth quarter, but at the end of the fourth and played every minute of overtime, where he made some key stops and grabbed some key rebounds, as well as made an important dunk with less than two minutes to go in regulation.

Of course, without overtime, Valanciunas wouldn’t have crossed the magical 30 minute mark, but I guess you have to take what you can get. Valanciunas finished with 18 points, on 8-13 shooting, and 13 rebounds.

The combination of Amir Johnson, with his hustle and defense, and Valanciunas were two of the main reasons the Raptors were ever in the game at all. Speaking of Amir, this game is the perfect example of why I feel he’s underrated. When the game is on the line, and there is a broken play, it’s usually Amir that ends up scoring.

With less than a minute to go in the fourth, and Dallas ahead by one, Monta Ellis steals the ball from John  Salmons and Amir steals it right back, getting fouled as he drove to the hoop. His free throw tied the game.

Here is Amir’s shot chart for the game:

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Amir gets a lot of flak for shooting those threes, but I’ve never had a problem with them and there are two very good reasons for that. The first is that the guy is shooting .607 from the floor, good for third in the entire league, and he shoots nearly 60% of his shots from within 5 feet. I’d say that’s earned him a bit of latitude.

Secondly, and most importantly, when Amir hits a three, he makes the defense have to adjust. After Amir hit his first three, this is what happened the next time he went to take a shot from beyond the arc.

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Now, in this case what he obviously SHOULD have done was pass the ball, with Lowry open from the top and DeRozan and Ross being defended by a hedging Shawn Marion, but the fact he made it the last time caused both Monta Ellis and Dirk to run at him. Amir taking a three once in a while helps the spacing on the floor.

What’s most amazing about Valanciunas and Amir having the games that they did, and the Raptors coming away with the win, was that the game couldn’t have started out worse for the Raptors.

In the first quarter, Dallas scored 33 points, including 18 in the paint, compared to 22 points and 14 in the paint for the Raptors. Just for fun, I decided to count the number of times the Raptors threw a good pass to a big man in scoring position as opposed to a bad pass. The ratio was 6-3. That means they threw it inside just 9 times all quarter long.

The Mavericks did that in one three minute stretch.

And the fact that the Mavericks had nearly twice as many assists as the Raptors is usually a bad sign for the Raptors. When the Raptors win, it’s usually because they are passing the ball and scoring in the paint, and you can usually tell whether that’s going to happen in the first quarter.

Honestly, I didn’t think the Raptors had a chance to comeback in this game, the way they were playing, but they did.

Truth be told, this was mostly a forgettable game for the Mavericks, who seemed to be sleepwalking throughout most of the game. Dirk Nowitzki looked like he didn’t even care most of the time, and it’s likely this win can be written off as a good team taking the night off against a lesser opponent.

If it wasn’t for Jose Calderon scoring 11 points, including going 3-3 from three, and dishing out 3 assists in the fourth quarter, I don’t know if the Mavericks would have woken up at all. As he often did for the Raptors, Jose seemed to give his team a boost when they needed it.

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THINGS I NOTICED

1. The are some problems with getting the ball to Valanciunas in the post. The first is that there are very few hard cuts by his teammates that Valanciunas can pass off to. His teammates are moving, but they seem to be going through the motions instead of making hard cuts to get open.

On the other hand, Dirk got two assists from Shane Larkin cutting hard to the basket after dumping the ball into Dirk in the post.

Of course, Valanciunas is also becoming a bit of a black hole, down low, once he gets the ball. There were numerous times when he ignored open teammates on the perimeter to take a shot himself. And while he’s a decent scorer down there, Kevin McHale he is not. If you’re McHale, you can afford to be a black hole. If you’re Valanciunas, you can’t.

2. Kyle Lowry had a very good game, but I can’t tell you how many times he shoots a three at the worst time. In the fourth quarter and overtime against Dallas, Lowry went 0-3, including missing two three pointers he had no business taking.

Fans love it when he hits those, but that’s not smart basketball and it can sometimes cost the Raptors the game, and it almost did tonight.

3. While DeRozan shot poorly, once again, he actually impressed me as much as any time this season. It was probably his best non-scoring game of his career, coming up with 7 rebounds, nine assists and some of the best defense I’ve seen from him. Of course, he’s showing the strain of being the team’s main scorer when he shouldn’t be, and many of his 6 turnovers lead to fastbreaks.

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