All-Access: Raptors 95, Mavs 74
FOREWARD: The Toronto Raptors entered Friday night with a six-game losing streak, having tasted defeat in 12 of their previous 13 games, and without arguably their two best players in Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry (respectively, the second and third leading scorers on the Raptors roster). On paper, this was supposed to be a gimme … an automatic win.
Instead, the Dallas Maverickscame out sloppy, a step slow, and seemingly disinterested in competing with a team that didn't simply lay down and give the game away. Trailing by as much as 29 in the fourth quarter, the Mavs scored a season low 74 points and were stomped by the now 5-19 Raptors (4-5 at home), 95-74.
MAKING THE CHILI PEPPERS PROUD: "Give it away, give it away, give it away now …"
Dallas came into the night ranked last in the league by allowing opponents to score an average of 18.9 points off of turnovers per game. 18.7 percent of all the points they had allowed came directly as points off of turnovers, ranking 29th in the NBA.
Over the past two games, Dallas has committed 45 turnovers, leading directly to 60 points for their opponents … 17 of those turnovers and 26 of those free points came Friday night.
Against the Celtics, the Mavs fought and scraped to overcome these mistakes. They refused to mentally succumb to the frustration that must have been rooted there. In the end, they still lost the game, but the fight never appeared to leave them.
Against the Raptors, whether it was just another symptom of their general malaise or fed directly into it, they did roll over and wilt to a team, on paper, they should have had minimal trouble overcoming.
It must also be noted that OJ Mayo led the turnover train in both of these games, handing away a career-high nine in Boston and a game-high six in Toronto. Mayo, and his teammates, must adjust as opponents focus their defense on Mayo and try to force the ball from his hands.
He must make the smart passes, and they must make themselves available for those passes … and maintain possession of catchable balls.
HOLD THE MAYO: Continuing with Mayo, he may have had his worst game as a Maverick.
You could argue that was his 4-point effort (his fewest of the season) on 2-of-9 shooting against the Bulls, but he also added five rebounds, four assists, three steals, one block and only two turnovers in that contest.
By comparison, he had 10 points (his second fewest of the season) and 2-of-8 shooting Friday night – not getting his first field goal until 1:08 remained in the third quarter – but added only two rebounds, three assists, one steal … and those six turnovers.
Certainly, there is no one player that owns this loss. It was a team effort … or lack thereof. Yet, this team tends to go as Mayo goes. Dallas is now 3-8 in games Mayo fails to score at least 20 points.
So, how did this happen?
For one, the Raptors often blitzed Mayo with multiple defenders, doing their best to make someone else beat them. In response, Mayo often appeared flustered and prone to error.
Often, when watching turnovers unfold, you'll see teammates leave a player to fight double-teams or pressure alone … failing to create easy passing lanes and proper spacing to take advantage of what automatically becomes a 4-on-3 advantage when a double team is employed.
Friday night, this may have played into some of the offensive struggles as a whole, but not necessarily into Mayo's giveaways.
Two turnovers came on attempted entry passes to Chris Kaman. One was too low and off target to the rolling big man, the other Kaman may share some of the blame for as he failed to properly seal his man behind him, causing the pass to be tipped and ultimately stolen.
Another occurred as Elton Brand was facing the opposite direction in the process of setting a screen while Mayo hesitantly tossed the ball behind his unaware teammate. This is on Mayo to see and understand what Brand is in the process of doing.
And, at least two of Mayo's turnovers came as a pair of defenders enveloped him, and he either tried to do too much or reacted poorly.
This marks the fourth game this season Mayo has had at least six turnovers. As defenses key in on him, he, and his teammates, must adapt and learn to capitalize on those mismatches born on the rest of the court when multiple defenders flock to one player, guaranteeing at least a momentary 4-on-3 offensive advantage.
Mayo is learning the burdens of being the team's first option, and we look forward to seeing how he learns and moves forward.
THE LONE BRIGHT SPOT: For the first time this season, a Mavs player has posted a points/rebounds double-double in back-to-back games (Darren Collison did have back-to-back games with a points/assists double-double) as Shawn Marion had 12 points on 4-of-7 field goals and 13 rebounds, adding three assists and two steals in 29 minutes.
In the two games since he returned from a groin issue, Marion has averaged 14 points and 12 rebounds … showing he's no worse for wear.
And, almost all of the negatives you would be justified to direct at his teammates in this game are ill fitting for Marion, who came to work … unfortunately he came without the proper support.
A FEW QUICK HITS: Brandan Wright was again little more than an afterthought in Carlisle's rotation, getting 14 minutes, but six of those coming after the towel had been thrown and the bench emptied to close the game.
We'd like to point to his 13 points on 6-of-6 field goals and clamor for more minutes, but then you browse the rest of the boxscore and find almost nothing else, including zero rebounds.
Wright brings so much to the table on offense, but it's hard to condemn Carlisle for hesitating to turn to a power forward/center whose rebounding percentage (percent of available rebounds grabbed while on the court) is drastically lower than every other "big" on the roster … his 9.6 rebound rate is tied with Dominique Jones.
However, this blatant deficiency is contrasted by the team's 7-2 record when Wright plays at least 19 minutes and one can't help but wonder, "does he bring enough to overshadow what he lacks?"
*Rick Carlisle has been quick to praise what Derek Fisher has brought to this team, and we don't doubt the wisdom, experience and aura of calm he appears to inject into tense situations. The team was 4-1 in Fisher's first four games and much was made of his positive plus/minus trends.
The Mavs are now 4-3 since Fisher joined the team and Fisher has posted a negative plus/minus in each of the past three contests, including a team-worst minus-22 against Toronto. He's shooting 31.5 percent from the floor, and has made his share of careless turnovers, averaging his highest turnover-per-minute rate since his third year in the league, back in the 1998-99 season (though that rate is still easily better than every guard on the Mavs roster other than Roddy Beaubois and Dahntay Jones).
Fisher's greatest strength so far hasn't truly been anything he's done particularly well, only that he hasn't done many things particularly poorly. He's been good simply because he hasn't made terrible mistakes with regularity.
*Vince Carter was regularly booed by the crowd of the team that drafted him, and had one of his worst games of the season, scoring four points on 1-of-8 shooting.
*The Dallas Mavericks had made a 3-pointer in an NBA-record 1,108 straight games, going back to Feb. 26, 1999.
That streak came to end against Toronto … as the Mavs missed all 13 attempts they took behind the arc. Fisher had what appeared to be a made 3-pointer with 9:09 remaining in the fourth quarter, but replays showed his foot was on the line … yes, yes, there's a Jason Kidd joke in there somewhere.
*The Toronto bench outscored the Mavs counterpart 53-27, led by Linas Kleiza's season-high 20 points and Terrence Ross's second-best scoring night of his young career (18).
THE FINAL WORD: You want to say, "throw this one away." You want to say, "this happens to everyone."
You want to, but it's becoming increasingly harder to do when this is the fifth time this Mavs team has lost by at least 20 points, a feat endured only four times through all 66 games of last season.
Perhaps it's nothing more than a team playing without it's best player. ... and oh what a treat it was to see said "best player'' doing pregame shooting on the game floor guided by trusty sidekick Brad Davis. Perhaps it's a symptom of relying more heavily on youth. Perhaps, but neither case makes it easy to swallow.
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