The Mavericks played a rock-solid second half and came up with a 110-102 victory over the defending champion Toronto Raptors on Saturday, opening an important four-game home stand in much-needed winning fashion. Here’s our five takeaways from the defensive-powered win.
FREE FOR THE TAKING: The Mavericks have been shooting more free throws than their opponents most of the season. On Saturday, they shot a lot more. With Luka Doncic getting 19 trips to the line, the Mavericks outshot Toronto 33-15 at the stripe. They made 27 (81 percent) while the Raptors made 11 (73 percent). Rick Carlisle called Doncic “a beast” for the way he puts defenses in a serious bind. The free throw is a serious weapon for him and other superstars. Just ask James Harden.
HEATING UP: Through the first 11 games, Seth Curry had shot a very modest (for him) 33.3 percent from 3-point range. He’s a career 43.4 percent shooter from long range. And he’d gone 3-for-16 in his previous five games before Saturday. So to see him pop up with a 3-for-5 shooting game from distance was a nice sight. “I loved Curry’s game tonight, loved it,” said after the win. “I loved his intensity on defense. His mere presence on the floor creates problems for team. Even on nights when he’s not getting a lot of shots, he’s contributing heavily to what we’re trying to do on offense. And the layup he got was a big one down the stretch.” That would have been when he snuck in for an offensive rebound and putback that put the Mavericks up 94-84. Curry finished with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists.
QUICK REVERSAL: The Mavericks were down 10-3 before the crowd could even get out of the popcorn line. Carlisle called a timeout. The Mavericks responded with 15 consecutive points and they were competitive the rest of the way after the sluggish start. “If I was a coach, I wouldn’t be happy about that,” said Maxi Kleber. “But we talked about it. We did a better job after that. It was a key thing to start off games better. We can’t go out trailing every time. So we want to make a statement every time we go out there, especially in the first quarter.” Call it a work in progress.
SPEAKING OF KLEBER: He continues to do a better job defensively than opponents give him credit for. He plays smart at that end of the court and is more athletic than he appears. Toronto’s Pascal Siakim was avering 30 points over the previous four games on the Raptors Western Conference road trip. He had 15 on 6-of-24 shooting and Kleber was a major reason. “He was great,” Carlisle said. “Siakim has really been killing it. That was mostly his responsibility. And he held him to 6-for-24, which really is a great job. He had him most of the time. Maxi’s versatility on defense is a big, big factor for us.”
REMEMBERING THE FACTS: Toronto was at the end of a five-game trip (they went 3-2). They were playing without two of their best players, Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka. And yet, they were still right there all the way against the Mavericks. The Raptors have survived the losses of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. They are 8-4 and will be a factor in the Eastern Conference – again. But, it’s commendable that the Mavericks took care of business to start a four-game home stand. They need to dominate this stay at home. The four opponents (San Antonio, Golden State and Cleveland come this week) have combined for the last six NBA championships. These versions aren’t the championship variety, but they have the pedigrees. Protecting the home won’t be easy, but it’s absolutely vital.