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3 things from the Mavericks victory over the Raptors, 103-95

It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win.

Toronto Raptors play the Dallas Mavericks Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Toronto Raptors 103-95 on Saturday night in Toronto. Luka Doncic led all scorers with 27 points, adding 12 assists. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 25 points. OG Anunoby led the Raptors with 23 points on 5-9 shooting from behind the arc. The Raptors were on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Mavericks offense started out just as clunky as it looked in Atlanta on Thursday night. Dallas only scored 18 points in the first quarter, turning in another clinic in bad spacing and missed shots. Especially bad—the Mavericks didn’t hit a single 3-pointer in the first quarter, despite taking six. Dorian Finney-Smith’s scrappy play on the offensive boards was really the only positive on offense early in the game.

But the offense roused awake just a bit in the second quarter, and the Mavericks were able to put up 27 points behind 4-9 shooting from deep. Nothing came easy, but the Mavericks were able to grind away on defense and not let the Raptors go on any big runs. They went into halftime down six points.

Things really shifted in the third quarter. After a few minutes of slogging away much like they did in the first half, the Mavericks’ offense finally started clicking. It’s not a coincidence that Luka Doncic finally started hitting shots for the first time this season. Doncic tied the game at 62 with a reverse layup halfway through the quarter, and after that he caught fire. Doncic scored 12 points in the third, and the Mavericks went on a 12-0 run that gave them a 69-62 lead.

From there they never relinquished the lead, though the Raptors closed within two early in the fourth quarter. But Hardaway hit a pair of 3-pointers that gave the Mavericks an eight point lead, after which Dallas slowly built up a cushion that grew as much as 16 points. The Raptors made a push late in the fourth, but a Finney-Smith 3-pointer with about two minutes left in the game gave the Mavericks a 13 point lead and sealed the game.

Here are three things from the Mavericks first win of the season:

Tim Hardaway Jr. saved the Mavericks—again.

Hardaway has won games for the Mavericks time and time again the last two years. If he gets hot from deep, the Mavericks are tough to beat. After scoring only three points in the first half, Hardaway erupted in the third quarter. He hit six 3-pointers in the second half, scoring 22 of his 25 points after halftime. He finished 7-11 from three. When he’s on fire like tonight, he has the ability to turn games around all on his own. There will be dips in his production at times, because Hardaway is very streaky. But games like tonight make the lulls worth it.

Kristaps Porzingis looks good on defense.

Porzingis is moving around like he did in 2019-20, and that’s spectacular. He’s made the Dallas defense better simply by being mobile around the rim. It still seems like he’s easier to score on than he should be as the primary defender in the paint. But his help defense is incredible. Porzingis had four blocks on the night, terrorizing the Raptors from the weakside whenever they drove. The only down side is his offense. Porzingis shot 7-20 against Toronto, and is shooting 33 percent on 2-point shots so far. If he can pull it together on offense, the Mavericks will finally have the player they envisioned when they traded for Porzingis.

Transition basketball is still a struggle for the Mavericks.

The Mavericks continue to look disjointed in transition, whether on offense or defense. Luka still doesn’t seem interested in pushing the ball up the court. He’ll make an outlet pass to someone running up ahead, but so far that hasn’t really gelled, leading to some bad passes or botched plays. It’s probably the inconsistency with which his teammates run, and the fact that sometimes they’re not in the right place when they do. Rick Carlisle didn’t have the Mavericks push in order to protect the ball and limit turnovers, so they don’t have a lot of reps doing so. That might fall into place with time. The Mavericks scored nine fast break points to the Raptor’s 12 on Saturday night.

Dallas is also bad at getting organized when defending fast breaks as well. This stretches back to last season. They often let guys get behind them, or don’t pick up shooters who sprint to the corners. Even when they do lock in on transition defense, the players don’t match up wisely, resulting in mismatches on defense when opponents settle into a half court set. You can’t always match up perfectly in those situations, but you can make some decisions to limit the damage at times. A guard could make sure to pick up an opposing perimeter player, for instance, rather than just guarding whoever’s close when the break starts. This probably speaks to bad communication on defense, and the statistics have shown as much the last two years. But as mentioned above, they’re only two games into Kidd’s regime. Hopefully there’ll be some improvement.

Here’s our lastest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.