This was always going to be a scheduling loss for the Toronto Raptors.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse almost said as much Friday night just moments before he caught a late-night flight home from Boston for the second game of a back-to-back. Beating any team on a back-to-back is tough, but knocking off the Dallas Mavericks with Luka Doncic is borderline impossible as the Raptors found out Saturday, falling 103-95 in Scotiabank Arena.
A clean first quarter with some surprisingly efficient half-court offense slowly deteriorated as the Raptors lost their legs.
"It’s pretty tough, man, on a back-to-back against pretty good teams, it’s tough to maintain," Nurse said. "I don't want to push any alarm buttons I think our offenses has struggled at times, but I think it's also grown a lot in the last five or six games including the last couple of preseason games."
The offense got progressively worse with each passing quarter and foul trouble to OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes left Toronto without much hope defensively. With the bench floundering, Doncic wiggled loose in the second half as Toronto ran out of gas.
"Those are the nights we really need our bench to provide some energy at home, back-to-back, we really needed them to give us something and they got outplayed pretty badly, I thought," Nurse said.
OG Gets Hot Early
The first two games of the season had not been kind to Anunoby who seemed to regress after what had been a very impressive preseason. It looked as though he was pressing offensively, trying to make something out of nothing as Toronto’s No. 1 offensive option.
“I think he needs to get downhill a little bit more,” Nurse said on opening night. “He’s got get into the paint a little bit and create not only for himself but for his teammates a little bit.”
Early Saturday night Anunoby had no such offensive issues. He got to his spots early and often, blowing by the slow-footed Kristaps Porzingis and then nailing catch-and-shoot three-pointers to get himself going rather than trying to create difficult one-on-one buckets. He shot 8-for-10 in the first half alone, scoring 20 points before the break.
The problem, however, was that foul trouble seemed to sap him of his aggressiveness.
"It definitely messed it up," said Anunoby who had three fouls in the first half and finished the night with five. "I thought they weren’t calling it both ways."
He scored just three points in the second half, finishing the night with 23 points and three rebounds.
Barnes Continues to Take on NBA’s Best
From Jayson Tatum on Friday night to Doncic on Saturday, the Raptors are throwing Scottie Barnes right into the NBA fire. He held his own against Doncic early, but his foul trouble in the first half proved costly for the Raptors.
"I said a long time ago, I look forward to everybody," Barnes said. "He's definitely one of those guys that you just want to see in person because he's just really good."
Once Barnes took his third foul midway through the second quarter Dallas began clawing back, pulling to within six at halftime as a Fred VanVleet, Isaac Bonga, Gary Trent Jr., Khem Birch, and Svi Mykhailiuk lineup couldn't seem to generate any reliable offense.
Doncic then put on a show in the third quarter, nailing a high-arching floater and a 32-foot step-back three-pointer to give Dallas a 72-64 lead all while Barnes sat. By the time the 20-year-old checked back in, Toronto had nothing left to give.
"He's a pretty good player," Barnes said of Doncic. "He can do so many things with the ball, with the ball in his hands, and he just makes things happen. He torches people coming off the ball screen, hitting the weak-side guy, scoring, getting to the basket, being able just to get a lot of attention being able to do so many different things."
Barnes finished the night with 17 points, three of which came on an and-1 against Doncic, eight rebounds, two assists, and five fouls.
Boucher Gets Benched
A 0-for-5 first half with some terrible shot selection was all Nurse needed to see from the always inconsistent Chris Boucher. Nurse called a timeout just seconds after Boucher’s fifth shot, an errant pull-up three-pointer, and Boucher wasn’t heard from again.
"He needs to it needs to start playing better, period," Nurse said.
Highlight of the Night (1)
Anunoby caught a pass deep in the paint, drew two defenders, and then went up and over Canadian Dwight Powell for a picture-perfect slam dunk.
Highlight of the Night (2)
The Fred VanVleet to Precious Achiuwa alley-oop hasn’t looked pretty so far this season, but the two hooked up for an incredible fast-break score as time expired in the third quarter.
Up Next: Chicago Bulls
DeMar DeRozan and the new-look Chicago Bulls are coming to Toronto next for a Monday night tipoff at 7:30 p.m. ET.