A lead is never safe, and with Chuck announcing the Salami and Cheese out with just over 7 minutes to go, I was still sweating it out. This was an extremely dangerous Dallas team that managed to come back twice in a row from 24 point deficits.
Fortunately, the Raptors kept the pressure on and kept the Mavericks from shooting over 40%. In fact, the Raptors have continued to keep their opponents under 90 points for the last few games, and it’s because of this defense that may be the difference come playoff time. While the fans might not be happy with the fact there’s once again no pizza, I’d gladly take this win rather than score over 100, and lose to Phoenix. The credit for this tightening of defense can really be attributed to having both Bosh and Nesterovic available. The two anchors of the defense consistently talk to allow players to get into position and to know the situation behind them without looking around. It’s that kind of communication that allows a player to concentrate on their defensive assignment in front of them.
Once again, though, it was Kris Humphries that truly came out and played above his expectations. As a big body who fought inside the entire game to get rebounds, Kris gives the Raptors the strong finisher around the rim that Sam needs on his team. Jamario, for all the good he does, needs to learn to emulate some of Kris’s aggressiveness in attacking the rim rather than settling for an inconsistent perimeter game. Now, Jamario has done a lot of defensive good, but it’s time to exploit some of that athleticism on the other end. Bargnani is still struggling to find his proper place, and still has that unfortunate black hole mentality. Delfino continues to be productive in areas that the Raptors need, especially with TJ Ford out. Although he didn’t score at a high percentage, he kept everyone in the game with some great rebounding and passing from the guard position.
Dallas, on the other hand, was without Devin Harris, and severely miss his scoring presence and offensive sets. In many ways, his replacement Jason Terry is still very much a Shooting Guard, and having him play next to Dirk saw Dirk lose a lot of opportunities as the ball was often in the wrong position for him to receive the entry pass. In fact, if it wasn’t for Josh Howard’s continued presence, the Mavs would have seen themselves struggle to even get to 75 points. It’s here where I wonder whether the Raptors may be interested in making a deal. The Mavs are one of the few teams in the league that really need a point guard and are possibly willing to trade with a useful talent to receive one. In any case, that’s speculation for another day.
So all around, a very satisfying win against a very difficult opponent. The Raptors can finally be proud of the fact that they’ve beaten a few very accomplished teams, managed to get 3 games above .500, string together a few wins, and got TJ to make a brief appearance.
Next Game: Toronto @ Indiana