TORONTO — Playing a seventh game in 11 nights, with all-star guard Kyle Lowry given the evening off, the Raptors were pushed to the limit Friday by the struggling Dallas Mavericks.
The end result was a 122-115 overtime victory and another lesson learned as Toronto tied a franchise record with its 11th straight win before a crowd of 19,800.
"I mean it’s cool," Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said of the record. "But I think we’re all looking at it like we’ve got a bigger goal in hand. As long as we’re playing well and we’re figuring out how to put away adversity.
"Every game’s not going to be pretty. But as long as we’re figuring out how to win and doing it the right way."
Toronto coach Dwane Casey saw it more as his team doing the hard way as the Raptors (52-17) needed a late fourth-quarter comeback and some overtime resilience to dispatch Dallas.
"We make it hard on ourselves," said Casey. "Every team is coming in and giving us their best shot. We’re learning to be the hunted instead of the hunter. It’s a different mindset."
Still Casey liked the fight and grit that his team showed when it counted.
"It’s a habit and we’re building that habit, building those scars, from mistakes," he said. "We’ve got to have supreme focus to be successful. And we didn’t have it in the first quarter … But I liked the way the guys bounced back."
While the Raptors are flying high this season, Casey is constantly reminding them that nothing comes easy.
"I say it all the time. We don’t have Michael (Jordan), Larry (Bird), Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar). They’re not walking through that door. So we’ve got to play hard. We’ve got to compete very possession. We’ve got to be the hardest-working team on the floor every night."
"We’re a good team but we want to be better," he added.
They will need to be Sunday when Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder come to town.
It did not come easy Friday with the Raptors, playing their second game in as many nights, looking short on energy and answers against a Dallas team playing better than its 22-47 record.
But late mistakes by the Mavericks and some timely DeRozan offence turned the tide in Toronto’s favour as the Raptors won for the 18th time in 19 games in a contest knotted at 106-106 after regulation time.
Three-pointers by DeRozan and Fred VanVleet, off a big Serge Ibaka rebound, gave Toronto a 115-112 lead with 1:13 left in OT. After Canadian Dwight Powell hit a three-pointer for the Mavs, DeRozan sank a shot with 53.1 seconds left to give Toronto a 117-115 lead.
Jonas Valanciunas added five free throws in the dying seconds.
Seven Toronto players scored in double figures, led by DeRozan’s 29. Eight of those came in the fourth quarter with another five in overtime. Without Lowry, the Raptors went 10 for 30 from three-point range.
Harrison Barnes led the Mavericks with 27 points.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle saw plenty of positives despite the loss, saying his players "kept a competitive foot on the pedal the whole night and did some great things."
"This is a wild building," he added. "This is the top team in the East, they are going to make plays."
The Raptors are an NBA-best 29-5 at the Air Canada Centre this season.
Down by six entering the fourth quarter, Toronto pushed hard but the Mavericks kept answering. The Raps cut the lead to 101-97 on four straight points by DeRozan and then to two at 103-101 and 106-104. After a Dallas turnover, DeRozan tied it on a jump shot at 106-106 with 1:15 remaining.
After Dallas was unable to score in a frenetic sequence, Toronto took a timeout with 21 seconds remaining. But Ibaka was stopped at the rim and the game went to overtime.
The Air Canada Centre, sold out for the 171st Raptors game in a row, was slow to fill after two gates were closed due to a police investigation of a suspicious package that was eventually detonated. "Area is deemed safe," police tweeted.
It turned out to be a plastic replica grenade.
Delon Wright started for Lowry with rookie forward O.G. Anunoby returning to the starting lineup. Anunoby dressed Thursday in Indiana but did not play after missing the previous seven games with an ankle sprain.
The Raptors were also without guard Norman Powell, absent for a second game due to a sprained ankle.
An aggressive DeRozan went to the free throw line eight times in the first quarter, collecting 11 points as Toronto led 29-27. But a 13-2 run, sparked by three straight three-pointers, pushed the Mavs ahead 51-44 in the second quarter.
The Mavericks frustrated Toronto with some aggressive defence but a 5-0 run at the end of the third quarter narrowed the Raptors’ deficit to 84-78.
The Raptors, whose victory in Indiana on Thursday night set a franchise record for consecutive road wins (eight), had not lost since Feb. 23 when they dropped a 122-119 decision to the visiting Milwaukee Bucks.
Toronto also won 11 straight during the 2015-16 season (Jan. 6-30). The current streak ties Portland, which did not play Friday, for the longest active run of wins.
Dallas had rebounded to win three of its last four after losing seven of eight, although all three wins came over teams currently out of the playoff picture (New York, Memphis and Denver). The loss was a 23-point beating by Houston.
Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki appeared in his 1,462nd regular-season game, tying Kevin Garnett for fifth on the league’s all-time list. Only John Stockton has played more games with one team (1,504 with the Jazz).
The 39-year-old German, in his 20th season, another footnote to his stellar career Friday with his 11,00th field goal, becoming the eighth NBA player to reach the milestone.