Gritty: The Mavericks showed why they’re one of the best home teams in the league, but the Raptors did just enough to secure the win. Toronto held the lead early, but they relinquished the lead with a dreadful 4-of-19 shooting performance in the third quarter, and needed to execute down the stretch to get the result.
Simple: The Raptors finally found an effective way to use Kawhi Leonard in crunch time. Leonard posted up at the top of the key with the other four players spacing the floor, and he worked Wes Matthews in isolation on two key possessions in the final minute. This play works because it takes away the ability for the defense to intercept and deny Leonard from getting to his spot off the dribble.
Finally: Tonight also marked the first occasion in which Leonard freed himself using the ball screen from Kyle Lowry that has failed them repeatedly in previous games. Leonard was able to turn the corner and draw help on his drive, and he alertly found Danny Green who dribbled past the closeout and sunk a soft teardrop over the absent defense of DeAndre Jordan.
Steadily: The Raptors have found a way to create for Lowry. The play involves having Lowry circle left to right from the baseline up to the top of the floor while coming around two screens from Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam. Lowry is especially comfortable moving to his left, and he drilled five triples on the night largely off the same action.
Solved: Defenses are increasingly prepared for Pascal Siakam, and it’s starting to slow him down. Teams are putting a smaller wing on Siakam, denying him from going right, and getting under him when he rises for the shot. Siakam’s shooting efficiency has dropped as a result.
Redemption: Delon Wright played with all-out hustle in response to his curious benching in the loss to Houston. Wright hit a three, attacked the paint aggressively, recorded an impressive chasedown block, and played with effort on defense. He even got extended run with the starters.
Sluggish: The same cannot be said for Greg Monroe, who contributed absolutely nothing for a fifth-straight game. Monroe was cut from the rotation altogether and didn’t play for the entire first half, but foul trouble forced him into making an uninspiring 3-minute debut. Toronto badly needs Jonas Valanciunas back in the lineup, and even still, management should look into adding a defensively-sound big to shore up depth.
Unstoppable: Luka Doncic had his most complete game to date. Doncic had an answer for everything the Raptors threw at him, and finished with 35 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists while going up against two elite defenders in Danny Green and Leonard. The Raptors took away the 3-point line for Doncic, but he showed his versatility with an assortment of floaters and crafty layups to punish the Raptors inside.
Counter: The Raptors came up with some stops late in the game by catching the Mavericks off-guard with a zone defense. Lowry, in particular, played tremendous defense when guarding Doncic in the mismatch.
Officiating: The Raptors always run into problems in games refereed by Tony Brothers, and tonight they had a legitimate gripe. The two sides combined for 72 free throws — including five technicals — as the whistle completely killed any semblance of flow.