For a little while this season the Toronto Raptors were finding innovative ways to lose games. First, it was blowing double-digit leads. Then it was last-second misses that cost them a pair of games. It was the kind of stuff you wouldn't expect from a veteran experienced team like the Raptors. The past few games haven't been perfect, but the Raptors appear to be back. They're winning the games they're supposed to win.
Don't get me wrong, the Dallas Mavericks are no pushover. As long as Luke Doncic is on the court the Mavericks have a chance. But Toronto got Dallas on the second half of a back-to-back without four players due to the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols. That's usually a recipe for success and the Raptors didn't disappoint, clinching a 116-93 victory to extend their winning streak to three straight on Monday night in Amalie Arena.
It was a vintage Raptors game in every sense. Not only did they win a winnable game, but they did it led by Kyle Lowry. Even at 34 years old, Lowry continues to look unstoppable. Put simply, when he's on the court the Raptors find success. He finished the night plus-15 with a team-high 23 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists.
As impressive as Lowry's stats are, it's the way he gets them that's so incredible. After Toronto watched another 10-point lead vanish just before the end of the first half, Lowry created one of his patented 2-for-1 opportunities. He took a driving layup with 30 seconds left to go in the half to tie things up and spark the Raptors heading into the break.
Out of the break, Lowry came alive for 12 points in the third quarter. It was the kind of third-quarter performance that just demoralizes an exhausted team playing on a back to back.
"I talked to him at halftime a little bit and was talking about, I thought some things I saw could free him up and he was ‘nah, I’m good, I’m seeing some shots, I’m seeing some driving lanes so I’m good.’" Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "I think he was just in that zone where he was attacking at the right time, shooting at the right time."
After a 1-for-9 first half from Pascal Siakam, the 27-year-old figured out how to penetrate the Mavericks paint defence in the second half. He got back to attacking the rim, tallying 19 points, 15 of which came after the break.
"I really thought again one little stretch we got kind of caught in no man's land for the game but then he started rolling and finishing or rolling and kicking out and playmaking," Nurse said of Siakam. "That is what I really liked is when he started getting into the heart of the defense, and then finding the open man."
The bench that had plagued Toronto so much to start the season now appears to be a strength for the team. Chris Boucher tied the franchise record for consecutive 15-point games off the bench, scoring 21 points to make it six straight games over the 15-point mark. He did it while Norman Powell continued to look hot, scoring 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting.
Raptors Lockdown Luka
The Raptors have had a knack for slowing down opposing stars this season and it carried over on Monday night when they held Doncic to just 15 on 4-for-11 shooting.
"I think we worked hard, first of all, to limit his touches somewhat," Nurse said. "Then [we] probably did a decent enough job when he did get down there to, to kind of move multiple bodies in front so he's not in the pump fake one on one scenario and he you know he kicked it out a lot, which is what we wanted to do."
Toronto's plan certainly got under Doncic's skin. The Raptors repeatedly sent Stanley Johnson to pick him up in the backcourt and pester him as he brought the ball up the court. At one point things got so heated Doncic appeared to throw an elbow into Johnon's chest.
"I’ve got hit harder before," he joked. "We’re playing basketball. We’re not gonna like give each other hugs. He got me. It didn’t hurt. I just get on with it.”
Up Next: Miami Heat
The Miami Heat will make the brief trip north to take on the Raptors at 7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday.