The return of Vince Carter and Jose Calderon to the Air Canada Centre should have taken second place to the fact this was a huge game for the Raptors, even if all the media coverage seemed to be on the soon to be 37-year-old Carter and for a while it looked like the Mavericks were going to blow their hosts out of the building. Calderon had 10 first quarter points and Carter added 5 points off the bench as the visitors romped to a 34-15 lead over the first 12 minutes seemingly unopposed. Fortunately for the Raptors, Head Coach Dwane Casey has a bench courtesy of the Sacramento Kings and once Chuck Hayes got into the game, the bleeding stopped.
“The first quarter, I thought it was going to be a blowout,” Casey said. “But, second half, we kind of got things back under control and defense back into the game. You get into a free flowing game with a great offensive team like they are and you are in trouble.
“In the first quarter, our rotations were slow and non-existent.”
The Raptors veterans came in and settled things down. The undersized center Hayes played defense, clogging the middle, making timely rotations and generally being a torn in the side of the Mavericks offense. Hayes was +18 while he was on the court and never even took a shot.
“The second unit came in with Chuck (Hayes) and Pat (Patterson) and got defense into the game,” Casey said. “(They) got the rotations quicker, crisper where Amir (Johnson) and Jonas (Valanciunas) struggled.”
With Kyle Lowry fighting a flu bug, Greivis Vasquez stepped up to play big minutes, lead the team and halt Calderon’s assault on the basket.
“Kyle was sick,” Casey said. “He had the stomach flu and was running back into the back every once in a while. He was 0-10 and that’s an anomaly.
“Greivis is playing at a high level – 17 points and 7 assists – he did a good job of controlling. He did a better job on Jose (Calderon) since Kyle was under the weather. Jose got them going in the first quarter. Greivis came in and did a much better job defensively.”
While the Raptors bench can take credit for stopping the Mavericks cold after the first quarter and Vasquez picked up the flu-stricken Lowry, as Toronto slowly made up that early 21 point deficit, this game became all about DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan scored 12 of the Raptors 15 first quarter points and the Mavericks soon set about making his life miserable. Quick double teams, pressure bordering on hard fouls, anything to get DeRozan off his game, but this time it wasn’t going to work.
“In the first quarter (DeRozan) wasn’t getting those flow shots,” Casey said. “After that we started getting them (from) our offense. He was running the pick-and-roll and they started blitzing him and he did a good job of finding (teammates) and the ball found him back and that was good. He was being double-teamed, but being patient enough to get the ball back and (continue) to score.”
DeRozan was strong with the ball and didn’t let the pressure disrupt what he was trying to do. His teammates recognized his success and when DeRozan gave the ball up to beat the pressure, he often got it right back. The result was a highly efficient career high 40 point night. DeRozan was 15-22 from the field and 9-14 from the free throw line with the Mavericks doing everything they could to stop him.
From Dallas’ standpoint, this was a game they should have won.
“We just have to do better,” Carter said. “More so than it’s the second time versus the Raptors, it’s the second time this year for us and I think we just have to zero in on staying focused, staying the course, continuing to do what got us to this point. I think sometimes you get comfortable and we are still learning how to win as far as winning big games. Very frustrating, a game that we should have won regardless of whether Dirk ( Nowitzki) was on the floor or not.”
Head Coach Rick Carlisle had given the 15-year veteran Nowitzki the night off to rest.
Monta Ellis led the Mavericks with 21 points on 9-18 from the field. Calderon only scored 3 more points after the first quarter for 13 points and Brandon Wright also contributed 13 points.
After a rough start, Casey put his sophomore center back into the game for the final 6:41 – even though Hayes was playing very well – and Valanciunas rewarded Casey with a strong closing effort of 5 points and 5 rebounds in the fourth quarter to push his totals to a 12 and 10 double-double.
Lest anyone forget, this Raptors season is still all about developing DeRozan, Ross and Valanciunas. A win is just something nice to get.
The 25-19 Mavericks head out to Brooklyn to play the Nets on Friday.
With the 93-85 comeback win, the 21-20 Raptors head to Philadelphia on Friday.