After losing 12 of their last 13 games, the Toronto Raptors got back in the win column on Friday night.
Picking up their fifth victory of the season, they rolled over the Dallas Mavericks, 95-74 and finally managed to piece together a full 48 minutes of basketball. Linas Kleiza led the way 20 points off of the bench, while shooting 5-for-11 from beyond the arc. Rookie Terrence Ross added 18 points in almost 23 minutes of action.
With the awful stretch of 15 of 22 games played on the road behind them, the team has spent the past two days preaching about defence and focus. Holding O.J. Mayo to just 10 points and eight attempts from the floor, the Raptors were able to keep the Mavericks from making a single three-pointer, breaking the longest active streak for made three-pointers in consecutive games in the NBA. Against the Raptors, the Mavericks finished 0-for-13 from beyond the arc, snapping the streak that spanned 1,108 games.
While the game was close after the opening quarter with the Raptors holding a one-point advantage, Toronto was able to outscore Dallas 30-16 in the second to take a 13-point lead into the half. Building the lead to 21 midway through the third quarter, the Raptors never looked back and Dallas was unable to ever get closer than 13 points the rest of the way through.
* The return of Alan Anderson: Anderson returned to the lineup after missing the last 17 games with a partially-torn plantar fascia in his left foot. He wasn’t able to contribute offensively, missing on all eight of his attempts, but he made his presence felt, playing great defence on Mayo as he and Mickael Pietrus made it their mission to prevent Mayo from getting the ball. Anderson also grabbed five boards, dished two assists and had a steal in 21 minutes in his first game back. After the game, he talked about the importance of the team relying on their defence: "The only thing you can really control is your effort… I know one thing you’re not going to ever question is my defence so I think it trickled down. Guys started getting after it. We started having fun with the defence. We started getting stops, getting steals, getting dunks off of it. Once you start seeing that, it’s, ‘let’s get another one. Let’s get another one,’ then the lead builds and everyone starts having fun.”
* Linas Kleiza’s offensive outburst. After missing Wednesday’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets with a sore right knee, Kleiza returned to the lineup and provided a huge boost to the team off of the bench. Scoring a game-high 20 points on 7-for-13 shooting, Kleiza scored 12 of his 20 in the fourth quarter and made a season-high five three-pointers. Despite his big offensive night, he also talked about how defence led to the victory on Friday night: “We weren’t perfect on offence, we missed a lot of shots, but we moved the ball, trusted each other and played great defence. Sometimes we score 95 and get blown out so defence was the key.”
* Bench effort/scoring. Against the Mavericks, Raptors reserves outscored the Mavs’ bench, 53-27.
* Rick Carlisle praised former assistant Dwane Casey after the game: “They played great and we played poorly. They had a lot to do with us playing poorly. After tonight, it’s very, very clear that whatever problems the Raptors franchise have is completely unrelated to coaching because Dwane Casey is doing a great job with a roster that’s beat up. I just have so much respect for him.” Vince Carter echoed his coach’s thoughts and pointed to the defensive effort the Raptors had throughout the game: “They wanted it a little more than we did. I think they created the pace they wanted, got us out of whack…I think they did a great job of running us off the line, I will be the first to tell you that.”
* Terrence Ross gaining confidence and getting used to the NBA game. It’s been a slow and steady uphill climb for the rookie this season. With his minutes — and his production — fluctuating, Ross has slowly started to get familiar with the speed of the NBA. He can be a streaky player and after swishing an 18-footer on his first shot attempt against the Mavericks, he didn’t hesitate to look for his shot the rest of the way through. Finishing with 18 points, Ross was just one point off his career-high. He was happy to see the work that the team has put in over the past week during practice time start to pay off on the floor. “I’m still getting used to the three-point line and getting my rhythm going,” Ross said. “It’s a little different than college so as soon as I get comfortable, they will start falling.”
* Line of the night: “Linas had one of his nights. He has one every blue moon and he had one tonight and it looked good.” – Dwane Casey
* Anderson on what it means to make a team like Dallas go scoreless from beyond the arc: “That shows what we can do when we buy in. That team is pretty good. They took Boston to double overtime, almost had the game won. We won by 20 and we didn’t have Andrea and Kyle, those are our best players. That should be a confidence boost, man. We’ve got to use that and run with it. The only way we’re going to get somewhere is defence.
* Toronto had a 14-4 advantage on the offensive glass against the Mavericks.
* Casey on taking things back to the basics on the defensive end of the floor: “We have to get back to the defensive fundamentals and principles. That is on me. We got away from it. Again, it’s going to be about that. We got that tonight. It does not matter who you are, if you do not do it then you are not on the floor. For us to build and continue to get better it has to be that way.”
* John Lucas came off the bench to score seven points, but also added a game-high six assists in just 23 minutes of playing time.