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3 thoughts after the Dallas Mavericks hold off the Toronto Raptors, 102-98

Four straight wins

Toronto Raptors v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks held off a feisty Toronto Raptors team at home Wednesday night, 102-98. Luka Doncic scored a new season high, pouring in 41 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Pascal Siakam scored 20 in defeat for Toronto.

Both teams started strong offensively, but Toronto crashing the offensive boards effectively all period. This resulted in seven more shot attempts by the Raptors and despite great shooting from the Mavericks (58%), Dallas found themselves behind after twelve minutes, 31-27.

The Dallas defense came to life following a timeout early in the second quarter, after Toronto took an eight point lead following yet another basket in the paint during the game. The Mavericks methodically worked themselves back into the game as Luka Doncic then Kristaps Porzingis scored repeatedly throughout the frame. But Toronto would not relent and Dallas found themselves up just one at the half, 55-54.

With Toronto only playing a seven man rotation, the talent and depth of Dallas started to win out in the third, with the Mavericks building up a nine point lead midway through the quarter. Toronto managed to rally all the way back to within four by quarter’s end, but a Josh Green buzzer beating corner three gave the Mavericks an 83-76 lead heading into the final frame.

The Raptors got into foul trouble almost immediately to start the final quarter and it seemed like the Mavericks might roll through the rest of the game. But Toronto closed the Dallas lead over and over and took a one point lead on a Fred Van Vleet three with two minutes remaining. Doncic took the lead right back, the games 22nd lead change. Then Doncic sealed the game with a dagger of a three at the one minute mark. After a couple of chances to tie or take the lead failed, Kristaps Porzingis sealed the win with two free throws. Dallas walks away with their fourth straight win, 102-98

Now, some thoughts

Every one of Luka Doncic’s points were needed

Luka Doncic last hit the 30 point mark on November 12. He’d scored 33 a few times early in the year but he’d seen a scoring drought (relative to what he’s capable of) for the past two and a half months. After a Thunder game where Luka couldn’t buy a bucket, Doncic used all his tools to score a season high 41 against a crafty and rugged Toronto defense.

And considering how many open looks Doncic’s teammates missed from Luka passes, the Mavericks needed Luka to be a bit selfish in terms of scoring for them to hold on during this hard-fought game.

The score will reflect good defense, but Dallas got exposed at points

There was a really good explainer post from Nekias Duncan on what the Mavericks have done defensively to turn things around the last 20 or so games and why it works for now. I recommend you read the whole thing but it starts with how the Dallas offense and the spacing results in fewer easy transition points for teams. Then they’re hustling and communicating very well.

Toronto punished Dallas early, get 26 paint points in the first 14 minutes of the game. At least three of those baskets were a big running the floor and sealing his defender deep in the paint for an easy look. Then the Mavericks gave up 16 offensive rebounds and plenty of second chance points. Dallas players, particularly guys like Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber, got burned on the fundamentals. That happens and it’s good the Mavericks survived. Game tape will likely show where Dallas players were simply out of position a little too often.

Fourth win in six nights

The Mavericks are in the middle of one of their more brutal scheduling stretches, where they play five games in seven nights. So far, they’re 4-0. A win against the best-in-the-NBA Phoenix Suns on the second night of a back-to-back seems like a lot to ask for, so gutting out these past two wins against the Thunder and Raptors is pretty fantastic.

Dallas played tired tonight at times, probably because they are. But every win counts as the Western Conference starts to separate into clear tiers.

Here’s our latest 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.