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Game 35: Mavs vs. Raptors

DALLAS –- Eager to return to their own floor after a winless two-game road trip, the Dallas Mavericks tried to build momentum Tuesday before venturing back out away from home.

Attempting to bounce back after Friday’s 113-101 defeat in Miami and a 112-107 loss the following night at Atlanta, the Mavericks looked to capture a win on their home hardwood against the Toronto Raptors. The Mavs also tried to rise to the occasion against the best team in the Eastern Conference, facing a Raptors team that had won six straight and 12 of its previous 13 games coming into Tuesday’s showdown. And behind lockdown defense against the No. 3 scoring team in the NBA, the Mavericks (10-25) came together to secure a hard-fought 98-93 victory.

“The defense was great, I thought, the whole night,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle matter-of-factly said after the win.

Hoping to get his team out of the gate fast after lackluster starts in the previous two games, 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki scored the Mavericks’ first four points in the opening quarter. Fellow German Maxi Kleber took matters from there, swishing an early three-pointer to put the Mavs up 10-6.

Kleber continued to contribute later in the quarter, swishing another triple to put the Mavericks ahead by six at 21-15. Mavs leading scorer Harrison Barnes then began to go to work himself, moving into double figures and keeping the Raptors (23-9) at a safe distance on the scoreboard. The duo of Barnes and Kleber then combined to score 19 first-quarter points to lift the Mavericks into the second stanza with a 31-23 advantage.

Opening the second quarter with a 5-0 spurt, the Raptors quickly charged back to within three after backup big man Jakob Poeltl’s and-one score over Nowitzki with 10:40 left in the first half. Delon Wright then tied the game at 31-all with a three to cap an 8-0 Toronto start to the second period.

Not to be outdone, Nowitzki and reserve guard J.J. Barea led a 6-0 Dallas run at the other end as the Mavericks regained control. Nowitzki’s offensive board and three-point play then boosted the Mavs to a 42-36 lead later in the period. A three-pointer from Barea followed a short time later to put the Mavericks up nine. But after Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry’s three from the top of the key capped a 10-0 Toronto run, the visiting team pulled in front 46-45. Lowry struck again from behind the arc moments after that to keep the Raptors ahead. Still, the Mavericks continued to fight behind the end-to-end play of Kleber inside. And after second-year standout Yogi Ferrell’s alley-oop lob pass to Kleber ended the half, the Mavs took a 57-53 edge into the intermission.

Led by 13 points apiece from Barnes and Kleber on 10-of-14 combined shooting, the Mavericks’ 48.9 percent from the field bettered the Raptors’ 36.2 percent in the first half. The Mavs also overcame Lowry’s 16 points in the half and Toronto’s 26-24 rebounding edge, outscoring the Raptors 30-18 in the paint.

“We were picking up fullcourt with presence, and we didn’t really let our offense dictate our defense,” swingman Wesley Matthews said of the first half. “Guys came in the game, and they were engaged.”

Hoping to keep the Raptors at bay during the early stage of the third period, the Mavericks would instead surrender the lead after big man Jonas Valanciunas’s three-point play over Kleber. Meanwhile, the Mavs received a blow after rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. was forced to sit following his fourth personal foul with 8:04 left in the third.

However, the Mavericks clawed their way back as Nowitzki upped his aggression on the offensive end of the floor. Barea’s alley-oop connection with Kleber tied the score at 66-all from there, leading to a Toronto timeout with 6:17 remaining in the quarter. The Raptors put the ball back in the hands of Lowry, staging a 7-0 run in response. Barea answered with back-to-back scores of his own to keep the Mavs in the game. Stellar ball movement led to a three from the wing by Barnes a short time later to put the Mavericks back on top, 75-73. And after Barea’s three-pointer capped a 17-0 run, the Mavericks finished the third on a 19-4 sprint to take an 85-77 lead into the final period.

“Our offense was moving. The pace was running high, and we were getting stops. We were able to score, we were moving the ball and attacking the paint, and it all started with us getting stops,” Barea said of the third-quarter success.

Getting a boost from veteran guard Devin Harris and backup big man Dwight Powell early in the fourth quarter, the Mavs tried to pull away. Nowitzki also stepped back into the scoring with a three-pointer of his own, putting the Mavs up nine in the process. Nowitzki’s steal then led to Barea’s transition score, forcing a Toronto timeout as the Mavericks assumed a 94-83 lead with 8:37 left to play.

The Raptors refused to go away, however, charging to within five at 94-89 while forcing 12 straight misses by Dallas. The physicality level also picked up, leading to a double-technical foul call on Tunisian center Salah Mejri and Lowry with 3:16 remaining. Toronto continued to claw its way back into the game after that, forcing a timeout by Carlisle with 1:38 left to play after the Dallas lead shrunk to three at 96-93. However, after Barea’s nifty driving reverse, the Mavericks extended the lead to five with just 10.2 seconds remaining. The Dallas defense then secured the win in the final seconds, stiffening for one final stop before Smith dribbled out the clock.

Scoring 20 points off the bench on 9-of-18 shooting, Barea led the Mavs to the win. Nowitzki added 18 points and seven rebounds inside, and Barnes scored 16 points to go along with 10 boards. Kleber pitched in 15 points, eight rebounds and five blocks in the first unit.

“We knew we weren’t going to be very successful running plays against these guys, because they’re too well-coached and they play situations very well. So, we were just playing random flow basketball as much as possible the entire game. … And the guys did a terrific job,” Carlisle explained.

Lowry led three Raptors in double figures with 23 points on 6-of-17 shooting, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing six assists to boot. However, the Mavericks outshot the Raptors for the game, 42.6 percent to 33.7 percent, adding a 56-53 rebounding edge and scoring 13 points off Toronto’s 12 turnovers to overcome their own 14 giveaways.

“The defense was great, especially Wes on (DeMar) DeRozan all night,” Barea said after the Mavericks held the perennial All-Star to eight points on 3-of-16 shooting. “I think everybody was rebounding, so I knew if we got one or two buckets that was game. I’m glad I was able to knock that down, and we’ll got from there.”

Note: The Mavericks will now head to Indiana to complete their back-to-back Wednesday night against the Pacers. The game will tip off at 6 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270.

The Mavs return to their home floor next Wednesday night at American Airlines Center against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Golden State leads the season series 2-0. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee quadriceps tendinitis) — out
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Josh McRoberts (lower extremity injury) — out
Nerlens Noel (left thumb surgery) — out