The Mavericks came to Scotiabank Arena hoping to launch triples and steal a win from one of the league’s best. The Raptors, looking to further solidify themselves as the East’s team to beat. Kawhi Leonard & co. took what they wanted with their large, grabby hands.
Tipoff. Pascal Siakam is working early in a lot of different ways. Corralling players towards the baseline on defense, grabbing boards. Sprinting past any and every Maverick in transition. As we’ve come to expect, and more often this year, Kyle Lowry was happy to find Siakam in the open court. Leonard finds Danny Green for two triples. Green looks at himself on the big screen to discover his skin is covered in fire. The Raptors break off an 18-2 run to start the game, the highlight of which being this slick pass from Lowry to Siakam:
Siakam is getting quite a few possessions as creator as Lowry works off of him. He gets a post-up on the wing and puts Finney-Smith in his patented sprawling spin-cycle. When he hits those layups it seems like he’s reaching from half-court. With all the missed shots courtesy of the Mavericks, the Raptors are doing a great job on their own glass. Valanciunas is sealing off Deandre Jordan early on. The Mavericks start finding their rhythm and hitting some shots, manufacturing a 9-2 run of their own. Doncic is snaking the pick and roll every time, but Valanciunas and Leonard are doing a great job of sandwiching him in the paint.
CJ Miles checks in and hits a triple, good stuff. Ibaka swats Harrison Barnes at the rim, sloppy fouls close the quarter out. Raptors up 39-26, and they finish with a 144.7 offensive rating in the quarter.
Nick Nurse combines Lonzo Brown, Norman Powell, and Miles to start the second quarter. Trying his luck to get some rest for Lowry. Leonard is a stabilizing force for the lineup, also Miles came to play tonight. Leonard keeps working the baseline with success, however he’s been pretty passive so far. Doncic starts heating up from downtown as the Mavericks slowly claw their way back. Most importantly, Miles is back, as he registers his first game this year with a dunk and a 3-pointer. He checks out with 10 points in 8 minutes. The pace has slowed significantly and Wesley Matthews is getting into the paint consistently. Most likely due to a drop off in intensity in the Raptors defense.
Lowry makes his way back into the game and gets a handle on things, certainly the Raptors offense. Valanciunas and Jordan trade skyhooks, consequently sending Leo Rautins into an “in my day” sidebar. The Mavericks keep firing away from downtown, Maxi Kleber knocks one down. Leonard responds to that with a triple of his own, the pace is picking back up. 63-53 Raptors, Siakam is still showing off some serious passing chops. A little bit of madness towards the end of the quarter, and even more 3-point attempts from the Mavericks. In this chaos the Raptors find themselves up 69-60.
A minute into the 3rd quarter Green walks unimpeded to the 3-point line, as a result he hits his fourth triple. The napalm is dripping from his palms. More transition play, as Barnes finds his way to the rim, and adversely so does Valanciunas. Lowry locks up another double-double, and strings together an 8-0 run, including a 28-foot bomb. 81-64, Raptors.
Leonard starts trading buckets with whoever the Mavericks have going, in this case it’s Brunson and Doncic from downtown. The Raptors keep working their way in for clean 2-point looks, whilst the Mavericks start hitting from downtown, a-lot. A healthy dose of Barea-Jordan pick and rolls, and good looks from downtown has the Mavericks back within 7. Nurse, apparently a very confident man, rolls out Ibaka-Siakam-Richardson-Brown-Powell. Naturally, things got a bit dicey from there. With no shooting to speak of on the floor, and Siakam trying desperately to create something out of nothing, the offense stagnated.
The Mavericks have been marching to the free throw line, as a result they climbed to within 1 point. 90-89. Powell miraculously gets a layup to go (goaltending), and the 3rd quarter ends mercifully at 92-89, Raptors.
Nurse rolls Leonard out to start the 4th and hopefully jump-start the offense. Leonard taking up ball handling duties opened up Siakam to make rim-runs. Likewise, Ibaka found himself with very favourable post-matchups and grabbed a couple baskets for posterity. Due to all the space these three created, Brown managed to punch in 7 points of his own, sparking an 11-2 run. Who would have thought? Lowry checks back into the game, therefore it’s closing time.
As the Mavericks continue to plug away, Matthews hits his 1000th floater of the game. This ever-changeable game slides back into post-play as Ibaka and Jordan trade buckets. The Raptors lead stretches to 12 points right before Siakam shakes loose in transition for a big dunk. There’s three minutes and some change left, ball game. A heavy dose of Leonard iso’s (in which he showed off just how tight his handle is) runs the clock to zero. The Raptors move to 6-0, the best start in franchise history. Pretty cool stuff, highlighted by another sublime Lowry & Leonard performance. All things considered, this was a great game for the Raptors. With OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, and Delon Wright all out for the game, this was tough.
Doncic was somewhat pedestrian tonight, what with Leonard stalking him. Even so, in the little bit of space he was afforded he put up a nice stat line. Jordan wasn’t electric diving to the rim, but Doncic managed to work the ball into him several times. That should be a fun pairing for a few years.
The game of basketball is entirely too easy for Leonard. If the ball found him below the break, it was a bucket. Not to mention he’s an all-time great perimeter defender. He and Lowry both have an outsized impact on every game, and they have a serious claim at a top-3 duo this year. We’re all lucky to watch them work like this.
Green and Valanciunas adding 15 and 17 points is a massive bonus. Valanciunas is hardly eclipsing 20 minutes a game these days, and Green has never been this reliable an option. That being said, there contributions look more and more consistent by the day. Top form for both of them. In contrast to role-players of the past, we’re being spoiled rotten.
A really good game for Valanciunas and Ibaka as far as pick and roll coverage goes. Ibaka has been superb lately, but seeing Valanciunas successfully navigate the middle ground between the ball handler and dive-man was satisfying. Similarly, it was more of the same from Ibaka, locked in on defense to open the season.
Valanciunas botched about 4 assists for my guy, Siakam. He may or may not be on my fantasy team. As a result, I’m throwing a fit.
Notable Stat Lines
Lowry: 20 pts, 12 ast, 0(!) tov, 8-14 FG (3-6 3P)
Doncic: 22 pts, 4 ast, 4-6 3PM
Leonard: 21 pts, 9 rbs, 5 ast, 3 stls
Jordan: 18 pts, 15 rbs, 5 asts
All is good in Raptor-land. Some rest for Anunoby, VanVleet, and Wright. On to Milwaukee.
Have a blessed day.