10 things: Raptors run out of gas on last leg of road trip

William Lou
·NBA reporter

Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 110-102 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

One — Exhaustion: Not to take anything from the Mavericks, who played with the zeal of a humiliated side smarting from a sweep to the lowly New York Knicks, but they met the Raptors at the right time. Toronto was on the last leg of their longest road trip of the season without two of their best players in Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, and the remainders were caught gasping for air. This result is more of a reflection of circumstance, rather than a lack of ability by the Raptors.

Two — Brutal: The worst of the bunch was Pascal Siakam, who played his worst game since he tripped up Joel Embiid in the Sixers series. Siakam was running on fumes after logging his fourth-straight 40-minute game, and he couldn’t get anything right. He missed a half-dozen layups that he would ordinarily finish, all of his jumpers fell short just like many of his passes, he was a step slow defensively on most possessions, and he was stuck on one rebound for most of the night. Even with a full squad, the Raptors won’t win with Siakam shooting 6-of-24 from the field.

Three — Uneven: To make matters worse, the officials made a collective decision to not whistle anything in the post. Maxi Kleber would have fouled out in a quarter under a different crew, but he was given free rein to manhandle Siakam as he saw fit. Meanwhile on the other end, Doncic drew touch fouls on most of his unsuccessful drives to the basket, which led to a 33-15 disparity in foul shots. Nick Nurse finally saw enough in the fourth quarter and was whistled for a tech.

Four — Outburst: Norman Powell was a bright spot for the Raptors, as he made a career-high six threes to make up for Siakam’s scoring. Powell made good reads within the flow of the offense instead of trying to force his looks, and that allowed him to stay in rhythm through catch-and-shoot threes and the occasional transition layup. Granted, Powell had the easier defender on him for most of the night, as he was checked by Seth Curry while Dorian Finney-Smith covered Fred VanVleet, but it’s good to see Powell break out. Hopefully this lasts.

Five — Leader: VanVleet will never be a takeover type of player in the mold of Doncic or Siakam, but he’s great at making a play when the Raptors get stuck. VanVleet drilled two key threes in the fourth and made a darting layup to keep them within distance, but Siakam just couldn’t close the deal. It’s a similar dynamic that Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan shared, where Lowry would consistently make the opportunistic momentum plays so that DeRozan could take the last shot. VanVleet, for his part, is looking more and more like Lowry with each passing game.

Six — Janky: The Raptors fell into a deficit early, but fought back to take the lead in the second quarter thanks to a few curveballs from Nurse. First, he threw a box-and-one at the Mavericks, which incited just enough confusion to knock them out of rhythm. Then, when Rick Carlisle adjusted, Nurse switched to a 2-3 zone to stay ahead. Unfortunately, those types of gimmicks don’t last the whole game, but Nurse did just enough to keep his team in it.

Seven — Boost: Matt Thomas played a huge part in the Raptors’ second-quarter push, as he started out a perfect 4-for-4 from the field for 10 points. Thomas made a series of difficult looks, including a leaning bank shot, a contested midrange jumper, and a sidestep three out of the corner. Thomas is slowly becoming acclimated to the physicality of the NBA as compared to Europe, and he’ll eventually find more gaps in the defense to get his shot off.

Eight — Frustrating: There was a sequence in the first half where Marc Gasol passed up on a wide open corner three to swing it to a wing who wasn’t open, before proceeding to post up against a taller player in Kristaps Porzingins, which produced a wild hook shot that had no chance of falling. It’s against Gasol’s sensibilities, but at this point in his career, he needs to stay on the perimeter. He’s no longer a threat in the paint, and he should focus instead on hoisting at least five threes per game. If defenses start closing out hard, that’s when he can start to probe inside.

Nine — Modest: OG Anunoby was decent in his return from being clawed in the eye by Kawhi Leonard. Anunoby drew the difficult assignment of checking Doncic and he did manage to stay in front of the Mavericks star, or at least push him towards help defenders. However, Doncic is just too crafty, and he was able to still be effective by drawing clever fouls and setting up his teammates.

Ten — Perspective: Although this loss was deflating, the Raptors should still hang their heads high. They went 3-2 on their most difficult road trip of the season without a third of their rotation, and will now return home where they are undefeated. Meanwhile, the likes of Thomas, Terence Davis, Chris Boucher, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson have emerged as viable contributors, and the Raptors have been close in every single game to start.

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