The Dallas Mavericks fell to 6-2 on Wednesday night as the Toronto Raptors rode a strong second half to victory, defeating Dallas 127-116. Luka Dončić finished with 31 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists, but Pascal Siakam (31 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists) and O.G. Anunoby (26 points) proved too much to overcome.
The Mavericks raced out to a quick lead in the first, as both Luka and Kyrie Irving made a concerted effort to push the pace and set the tone early. Luka poured in 12 points in the first and Kyrie was just as impressive, scoring seven points while also dishing out four assists. This was easily the most aggressive Kyrie has looked to start a game so far this season. At the end of the first quarter, the Mavericks led 33-27 (which was only the third time this season they have led at the end of the first).
In the second quarter, the Raptors ratcheted up the defensive pressure, utilizing their exceptional length to generate several deflections and slow down the Mavericks’ offense. Anunoby and Siakam both started to assert themselves more in the second, taking advantage of the Mavericks’ undersized wings, and they each scored 16 points in the first half with relative ease. A dubious no-call on a clear kicked ball by Gary Trent Jr. allowed Anunoby to score a fast-break dunk that gave Toronto a 62-58 lead heading into halftime.
After halftime, Siakam picked up right where he left off with a dominant third quarter. He continued to bully the Mavericks in the interior, working his way through feeble resistance and continuously finding comfortable shots in the paint. The Raptors went on an 11-0 run halfway through the third and never looked back, finishing the frame up 99-88.
The fourth was more of the same, as the Mavericks proved completely incapable of getting stops on defense. Turnovers and missed free throws continued to plague the Mavericks on offense and they could not cut into the deficit in any meaningful way.
The smaller Mavericks got bullied
Without Dereck Lively II (who missed the game due to a non-COVID illness), the Mavericks’ interior defense was non-existent. The Raptors dominated inside, outscoring the Mavericks in the paint 72-40. Anunoby and Siakam both repeatedly exposed the Mavericks’ lack of size as every defender the Mavericks threw at them looked completely overmatched. This was the second time this season that the Mavericks simply looked far too small to offer any resistance to their opponent (the other time being in the loss against Denver).
That being said, even when the Mavericks are at a physical disadvantage, they must do a better job of being in position and making timely rotations, as the Raptors were able to generate easy looks after only one or two passes.
Kyrie Irving needs to be more assertive
Kyrie was unable to sustain his strong start, fading into the background for much of the rest of the game. He finished with 22 points (on 19 shots) and five assists, but it never felt like he recaptured the aggression that helped propel the Mavericks offense in the first quarter. Maybe his hurt foot is still bothering him, but as Dallas’ schedule gets tougher, the Mavericks need him to be less deferential and look to take on more of a creative playmaking burden, particularly when Luka is being aggressively double-teamed.