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Mavs Top Takes: Playoff-Worthy Dallas Defense; Luka Doncic Magic Back?

The Dallas Mavericks have now won 10 of their last 11 games, and Luka Doncic seems to be finding his stride. Here are our biggest Mavs takes.

The Dallas Mavericks, now 26-19 on the season and closing in on home-court territory, managed to extend their winning streak to four games with a 102-98 win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.

The Raptors played their best basketball early on, having scored a game-high 31 points in the opening quarter. The Mavericks tightened things up on defense the rest of the way, though, holding Toronto to 23 points or fewer in each of the remaining periods of the game.

The outcome of the game wasn't decided until the final few plays. It took some late-game heroics from Luka Doncic to be the difference for the Mavericks. He finished with a season-high 41 points while chipping in 14 rebounds and seven assists.

Now, let's take a look at three takeaways from the Mavericks' win over the Raptors. ... and how it can be applied moving forward ...

Strong Defense, Not So Strong Rebounding

Overall, it was another strong performance on defense for the Mavericks. The Raptors were held to 98 points on 35-of-91 (38.5 percent) from the floor and 8-of-32 (25 percent) from deep. 

While allowing 25 free-throw attempts ranked high on the short list of negatives for the Mavericks defense, it was giving up 16 offensive rebounds and 21 second-chance points that was most costly. 

There wasn't nearly an attentive or assertive enough approach from the Mavericks on the boards in this game. At times, they were ball-watching while at other times, the Raptors were simply more aggressive gaining proper rebounding positioning or following the initial miss. 

On the season, the Mavericks now hold a 15-3 record in the 18 games they've contained their opponent to fewer than 100 points. The is the kind of defense that has to be played in order for Dallas to end its decade-long drought of not winning a playoff series.

Excellent Free Throw Shooting

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In a tight game, it's important to gain any advantage as possible. Free throw shooting is often a make or break factor. For the Mavericks, going 19-of-20 (95 percent) made all the difference. 

Luka Doncic, who was shooting just 74.0 percent from the free-throw line entering this game, finished shooting 11-of-12 (91.7 percent). The only other Mavericks player to even record a single attempt was Porzingis and he was perfect on all eight of his chances.

The step-back from extended range by Doncic at the 1:01 mark was a pivotal clutch play for the Mavericks but Porzingis converting on both free throws on a trip at the line with 5.6 seconds left locked in the victory.

Luka Doncic Finally Got Hot

The Mavericks received an incredible performance from Doncic in this outing. He finished his night with 41 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists with strong efficiency. He shot 13-of-24 (54.2 percent) from the floor and 4-of-10 (40.0 percent) from deep.

This was the first game since November 27 where Doncic crossed the 30-point threshold. And it was the first game he’s scored 40 points in since the Game 7 loss to the Clippers in the first round of the NBA playoffs last season.

The step-back jumper was far from the only pivotal play Doncic made down the stretch. He scored a game-high 11 points during the fourth quarter while the Mavericks as a whole had just 19. 

It's encouraging for the Mavericks that Doncic was clicking at such a high-level in the scoring department. His 41 points set a new season-high and was the first 30-point outing he's had since scoring 33 on Nov. 27 against the Washington Wizards.

With the Mavs continuing to maintain their newfound defensive identity, Doncic finally turning the corner with his offense will only help Dallas scale further up the Western Conference standings. Is ‘Luka Magic’ back? It certainly feels like it.