Final: Raptors 116, Mavs 107
This was the kind of night when you can call basketball a game of runs. Toronto stormed out to an 18-2 lead and seemed to remain up double-digits for most of the rest of the first half. Then, all of a sudden, Dallas pulled to within 50-45 before the break, before immediately falling back behind by as many as 17 points early in the third quarter. Within 10 minutes, the Mavs were down 90-89 and at the free throw line, but three straight missed free throws and a few missed layups turned what could have been an improbable lead into a double-digit deficit early in the fourth quarter.
All that said, this was a pretty clean game. Toronto’s fourth-quarter run was fueled in part by some costly turnovers, but the two teams combined for only 26 giveaways; most of the offense was generated by pure shot-making by both teams. Luka Doncic and Wesley Matthews both surpassed the 20-point plateau, and each has scored at least 19 points in four consecutive games.
Harrison Barnes made his season debut tonight after missing the first four games of the year. He only shot 5 of 17, but a bit of rust was expected when you remember it was his first game and he spent most of his time guarded by Kawhi Leonard, arguably the best perimeter defender in the game. Not the best conditions for a debut, but Barnes did look like he was under control for most of the night. I would suspect his shooting touch will return in short time, once he’s had the chance to find his legs and regain some rhythm. The Mavs certainly missed him.
DeAndre Jordan scored 18 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and handed out five assists. The last Maverick to do that was Jason Kidd on Feb. 26, 2010. That night, Kidd had a 19-point, 17-assist, 16-rebound triple-double, but his night’s work is best remembered for a late-game sideline collision with Hawks head coach Mike Woodson, resulting in a technical foul on Atlanta and a Dallas free throw. Jordan has never really been known for his passing, but he’s done a pretty good job this season of finding cutters and starting fast breaks with long outlet passes. I don’t think he’ll get five every night, but even just a couple from the center spot can go a long way.
Jalen Brunson made the first start of his career, with Dennis Smith Jr. out due to a right ankle sprain he suffered late against Atlanta on Wednesday. Brunson finished with eight points and four assists on 11 shots. Once he got comfortable, particularly in the second half, he was able to make some really nice plays. Rick Carlisle called him “a quick study” after the game, meaning Brunson is the kind of guy who will watch the tape and learn quickly from both his mistakes and his successes. Smith’s ankle injury is not expected to be serious — he warmed up on it before the game before being a late scratch — but with the Mavs beginning a four-game, six-night sprint tonight in Canada, you never know when your name will be called. For Brunson, that might mean he draws a starting assignment on Sunday. Or, perhaps he’ll merely return to the bench as the backup guard. You’ve always got to stay ready.
The Mavs (2-3) will come home for a cup of coffee, and then to face the Utah Jazz on Sunday at 6 p.m. They’ll then follow I-35 in the sky down to San Antonio to play the Spurs on Monday.