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Mavs snap two-game skid with win over Raptors

TORONTO – Luka Doncic dictated things as per usual on the way to a nice present for his 25th birthday.

Doncic had 30 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists in leading the Dallas Mavericks to a 136-125 win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. Dallas snapped a two-game skid with the win, while ending the Raptors’ three-game winning streak.

“Nice present, yes,” Doncic said of the win.

Asked if it was a milestone, he said with a smile that he feels 40.

“A lot of games, a lot of minutes. A lot of professional basketball,” Doncic said.

The Slovenian point guard controlled the pace and made superb passes look routine throughout the game, giving the Raptors a difficult time defensively.

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“It’s at his pace. It’s on his terms. A lot of times, very athletic and quick players, they’re trying to do too much,” Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic said. “He’s so good at reading the angles, reading the timing.”

“One thing that you know because of his size, he’s always making those passes over the defence. So any time if your hands are down, it’s gonna make it very, very easy.”

Kyrie Irving contributed 29 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, for Dallas (34-25). It was the second game of a back-to-back set for the Mavericks, who dropped a tough 121-119 decision at Cleveland on Tuesday.

“It’s like the pitcher who gives up the home run,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said. “You’ve got to ask for the ball because you’ve got to throw another pitch.

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“I thought the group did a great job tonight of learning from what happened last night and being able to turn the page.”

Immanuel Quickley scored a team-high 28 points for Toronto (22-37). RJ Barrett and Scottie Barnes added 26 and 19 points, respectively.

“Overall, I don’t think we did a good enough job of protecting the paint tonight,” Rajakovic said. “(We) allowed them way too many offensive rebounds. Couple of plays that we missed a layup, we missed wide open shots that led to easy points in transition on the other side.

“To be honest with you, we had 34 assists tonight, but it did not feel like 34 assists. I didn’t really like our ball movement and energy that we had on the offensive end, as well.”

The Raptors fell to 4.5 games behind Atlanta for the 10th and final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference with 23 games remaining in the regular season.

Doncic closed a 9-2 Dallas run shortly after to tie the game with 2:50 left and the Mavericks eventually went ahead 36-34 to close the frame.

After being down for much of the quarter, and by as many as seven points, the Raptors pulled themselves back into contention late in the second quarter. Barrett put Toronto ahead 67-66 at the break after getting a tough layup to go with a free throw with 57.1 seconds left on the clock.

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Doncic scored five points in a 10-2 run that allowed the Mavericks to push their lead to as many as 14 points with just under two minutes left in the third quarter. Doncic had nine points, five rebounds and six assists in the frame alone as Dallas took a 106-92 lead after three.

Irving picked things up with Doncic on the bench, scoring 13 of the Mavericks’ first 16 points midway through the fourth quarter to keep the Raptors at bay, 122-108.

The closest the Raptors got in the frame was with 1:21 left after Quickley’s layup made it 129-120.

PRACTICE

The Raptors came out of the all-star break strong, winning three straight games entering Wednesday. Rajakovic attributed it to taking advantage of the break to work.

“We have a young group, young core that’s hungry to improve and they want to get better,” he said. “The biggest thing for us was we were able to practice a couple of days and really to address some things offensively and defensively.

“With such a new group, for us, practice is a privilege and an opportunity to really get better.”

UP NEXT

Toronto plays the second of its four-game homestand against the Golden State Warriors on Friday.

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Dallas wraps up its four-game road swing against the NBA-best Boston Celtics on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2024.

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