The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Toronto Raptors 102-98. This was not a game that will be preserved in the library of congress to show quality basketball but it was a good workman like win. The Raptors are a long athletic team that can be difficult to play against. They also have arguably the best coach in the NBA in Nick Nurse.
The Mavericks did not let any of those things prevent them from grinding the Raptors down. The Raptors only played seven players and one of them, Justin Champagnie appeared to believe he was tasked with “hack-a-shaqing” Luka Doncic even though the Mavericks were not in the penalty early in the fourth period. The full strength Mavericks were good enough to keep it close and that was enough for Luka’s dominance to shine through.
Here are the stats to know.
11: Number of free throws Luka made of his 12 attempts
The only thing Luka has struggled with on the offensive end in the playoffs the last two seasons is making free throws. He has shot a total of 60 percent on free throws in his young playoff career. Luka appears to be figuring it out as he is now 31-for-35 from the free throw line over the last three games. This is an incredibly important development to keep an eye on going forward.
11: Number of turnovers by players other than Luka and Jalen Brunson
Luka is always going to have a lot of turnovers as a consequence of how much he has the ball. Brunson gets the ball most of the time that Luka doesn’t have it. The Mavericks are still an incredibly low turnover team (fifth in the league in turnover rate as a team, second in raw turnovers) because of how rarely everyone else turns the ball over. Tonight that was simply not the case. Every possession is valuable and the role players have to do a better job of taking care of the ball like they normally do.
98: Number of points the Mavericks held the Raptors to
The Mavericks have now won 10 of their last 11 games to push the record from 16-18 to 26-19. During that stretch, the Mavericks have only allowed three opponents to reach 100 points. The Mavericks are not a prototypical elite defense but that does not make the success any less real. There was reason to be concerned that reinserting Luka and Tim Hardaway Jr. would undo much of the defensive progress. Thus far the defense has continued to dominate without much difference.
Both Luka and Hardaway have improved defensively. More importantly the team is more understanding of the scheme that coach Jason Kidd is running. The Mavericks had the best defensive rating in basketball over the last 22 games and that should continue after tonight. Following this game the Mavericks are now giving up 94.8 points per game over their last 11 games.
41 and 14: Points and rebounds for Luka
I am partial to anything involving the number 41 with the Mavericks because of the greatest player in franchise history. This was Luka’s best game of the season. He made threes (4-of-10) and got to the rim. He hit his free throws as mentioned above. He did not have a triple double only because the team missed a good deal of shots.
This was the first time we have truly seen Luka look like his playoff self from last season. The Mavericks needed every bit of it. As has so often been the case, Luka was everything we could have asked for and more.
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