Five thoughts on Game 32: Mavericks 98, Raptors 93

The Toronto Raptors lost to the Dallas Mavericks yesterday, in one of ugliest basketball games I’ve seen all year. Talk about a Christmas hangover; the teams combined for 28 points in the fourth quarter on 11-42 shooting! Riveting.

DeMar DeRozan needs to give up the ball

DeRozan had a tough shooting night, as he often does against big, physical guards like Wes Matthews. For all of his improved playmaking the past couple years, DeMar still forces too many shots in these situations. He had four assists in the first quarter, 1 in the second and none the entire second half.

I know that the best way to break out of a shooting slump is to keep shooting, but those shots need to come in rhythm, in the flow of the offense. In the second half DeMar was simply taking the ball and trying to bully his way to his spots, and that’s not his game.

The Raptors likely would have been better off had he put more effort into moving the ball and getting his teammates involved in the fourth quarter.

Tough shooting nights happen, but lacklustre defense shouldn’t

Toronto gave up 48 points in the paint to a Dallas team that came in to the game dead last in the category, at 37.8 a game. (Toronto, by the way, ranks fifth, at 47.9—and only scored 34 in the paint.) The poor shooting—33.7%, 29% from 3-pt range—I can live with, but the Raptors played so poorly on defense that I was left simply shaking my head. The guards—even Delon Wright!—were letting the Mavs backcourt dribble around them, and the bigs didn’t protect the paint well. And even when they did, the penetration left the defense scrambling, which led to wide open shots for Dirk Nowitzki, only one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the history of the NBA.

Helping Dirk do damage was JJ Barea, who looked five years younger. He had 20 off the bench on 9-18, four more shots than anyone else on the team. And it felt like the Raptors didn’t make him work that hard for any of them.

Let’s appreciate Dirk while we can

Dirk Nowitzki is 39, has played 19 seasons, won an MVP and a title. His numbers, are, understandably, down this year; he’s only averaging 12 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in 25 minutes.

But he’s still shooting 46%, and 42.6% from 3-pt range. Against the Raptors shoddy defense, he scored 18 on 8-13 shooting (and he started 5-6). It was infuriating, of course, as a Raptors fan, but as an NBA fan, it was a treat to see his mini-throwback performance. He’s been great to watch over the years, and he’s such a character that he’s incredibly easy to root for. It’ll be a sad day when he retires.

Is closing quarters still a Toronto Raptors problem?

Over the past few seasons the Raps have had difficulties at times closing quarters strong. That sure reared its ugly head again yesterday, as the Mavericks closed the second quarter on a 7-0 run in the final 90 seconds, and closed the third quarter on 17-4 run in the final 4:14 of the frame, after the Raptors had taken a 7-point lead.

That run would prove to be the difference maker as the Raps never got closer than 3 in the final quarter.

Good lord, the video reviews are killing me

There was another ridiculous video review in the second quarter, after Kyle Lowry tapped an offensive rebound out. It’s a completely normal basketball play, that happens about 8 times a game. Only, because he came in contact with Sarah Mejri’s head on the tapping motion, they called a foul on Lowry. And if that wasn’t awful enough, they had to go to video replay because apparently, anytime someone gets bumped on the head, it’s an automatic flagrant review.

It’s incredibly stupid. If the refs can’t determine that Lowry didn’t intentionally whack Mejri in the head during live play then they need to find new jobs. Stopping the game for this is garbage is something the league needs to stop.

(My favourite thing about it, though, is that it was such a dumb call that the refs had to make it up on the Mavs in the fourth, when Powell did the same thing on a tap out. At least they recognized it was a horrible call!)

Meanwhile we were subjected to another interminable video review in the fourth quarter, after Mejri got upset about something and went after someone on the Raptors. The Raps broadcast wasn’t able to determine why he was upset or who his anger was pointed at, but, after review, somehow Kyle Lowry ended up with a technical foul (along wth Mejri). That was truly an inexplicable call. But worst of all? After the review, Rick Carlisle called a timeout. Are you kidding me? We just had a four-minute stoppage! Please, NBA, add a rule that after a video review stoppage, teams can’t call timeout. That Carlisle timeout was a giant middle finger to every person who was watching on TV and every person who bought a ticket to that game.

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If you’re looking for silver linings, CJ Miles is back. He only played 10 minutes, but hopefully that will have allowed him to shake off any rust so that he can get more run tonight in Oklahoma City, where the Raps take on the Thunder in a back-to-back.

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