“Just another day in the Office” as Raptors break another Franchise record win

Eduardo Harari
BarnBurner Sports Writer

@edharari

Monday, December 23, 2019


Raptors 110 Mavericks 107

 

TORONTO. – Nick Nurse must have his own pot of gold and rainbow somewhere inside the confines of the Scotiabank Arena because the win tonight over the Dallas Mavericks was not only the biggest comeback in the history of the franchise but a fairy tale right out any Disney story book.

It's also the first 30-point comeback in the league since Dec. 21, 2009, when the Sacramento Kings overcame a 35-point hole to beat the Chicago Bulls 102-98.

Toronto's largest comeback before Sunday came when the Raptors erased a 25-point deficit to beat the Detroit Pistons 120-116 on Dec. 11, 2010.

Nurse started his day to news that his big man Dewan Hernandez was being added to the already packed list of injured Raptors of Marc Gasol, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam, Matt Thomas and Stanley Johnson.

Down to 10 available men to start a series of 6 games against a power house of opponents that include a back to back to back series against the Mavericks-Pacers-Celtics including a road game in the middle of the series would scare anyone but not our in house Leprechaun, Nick Nurse who rallied his troops before the game and must of given them a speech by Lou Holtz of the “Fighting Irish” because what happened in the 4th quarter will be remembered by Raptor Nation for a long time.

The Raptors could have called it a night early. Instead, led by a remarkable fourth-quarter performance by Kyle Lowry, the Raptors recorded the greatest comeback in franchise history in a 110-107 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

His full-court press strategy not only changed the momentum of the game as the Raptors started making Mavericks to question themselves. Down 30 at the end of the 3rd quarter and a Kyle Lowry, who was as cold as any other Raptor on a day where no one was even close to room temperature from a shooting standpoint through the first three quarters, suddenly couldn’t miss.

"We have always been a team that fights," Nurse said. "In my time here, we hardly ever mail it in. It's a good characteristic to have."

Lowry scored 20 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, and the Raptors roared back from a 30-point third-quarter deficit.

"I think that was a one-off game, but you could see how hard we played, and that's something you take from and you continue to build on," Lowry said.

"That's the part of that game you take and say 'Yeah, that's a hard-playing team right there,' no matter what, we were down whatever we were, it didn't even feel like it, we just went out there and played."

The all-star point guard added 10 assists and eight rebounds and, with a couple of minutes to play, the capacity crowd of 19,800 fans Scotiabank Arena broke into chants of "Low-ry! Low-ry!"

“Piece of cake,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said jokingly after the game. “(Lowry) was unbelievable, right? And he really didn’t have that good a game going until that point, too. Then he started firing and making and driving and and-one-ing, he was doing it all. I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like it.”

Montreal's Chris Boucher scored a career-high 21 points, including a huge dunk in the dying seconds. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 18 points for the undermanned Raptors (21-8), who were playing without Pascal Siakam (groin), Marc Gasol (hamstring) and Norman Powell (shoulder).

Dallas has been one of the best road teams this season with an 11-2 away record. The Raptors had an early 12-point lead, but without any sustained energy on either side of the court, saw that quickly evaporate.

The Raptors, who lost 110-102 in Dallas on Nov. 16, raced out to an early 12-point lead, thanks largely to the Mavericks' poor shooting in the quarter — 21.7 per cent. But the Mavs started to find their shooting groove toward the end of the frame and pulled to within 20-17 heading into the second.

Toronto struggled mightily in the second quarter, connecting on just one of seven shots from behind the arc. Porzingis's three with just under four minutes left in the half capped a 16-2 Mavericks run that put the visitors up by eight points.

The Mavs had possession for just 4.1 seconds to end the half, but Porzingis still managed to launch a 30-footer at the buzzer, and Dallas headed into halftime with a 51-42 lead.

On the floor for the Raptors for what appeared to be a ceremonial free-throw of death for Toronto at the time was Miller, Kyle Lowry, Terence Davis, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris Boucher.

An extreme case of the vaunted Lowry-and-the-bench lineups of the yore, this appeared to be something that Nurse would throw out at the end of the quarter and then likely wave the white flag in the fourth as the Raptors were scheduled to play in Indiana Monday on the second night of a back-to-back.

The comeback started with four free throws that Hollis-Jefferson made at the end of the fourth, the Raptors entered the fourth trailing by 23 – obviously not great, but better than before.

But more important than the made free throws from Hollis-Jefferson was what was seen from the Raptors’ defense after each attempt: A now-familiar sight of the Raptors scrambling, trapping and picking up full court to try to speed the Mavericks up, and create turnovers.

Nurse ended up riding this lineup until 1:37 left in the fourth where, by that time, the Raptors had taken a three-point lead and had all momentum on their side to finish off the job.

“We stayed with it a long time, we probably called it off a little bit early to be honest with you,” said Nurse of the pressing defense and the lineup he was utilizing with it. “There really wasn’t any reason [to stop].”

When you force a team to turn the ball over seven times and hold them to 5-of-19 shooting in a single frame, why would you change what was so clearly working?

Nurse found a solution, and Dallas had no answer for it, ultimately.

“The mood was really bad to start the fourth quarter,” said Nurse. “We were getting our butts kicked. But we just had a little recent success with pressing in Philly down late, so I said, we’re gonna make one charge here at this thing. Let’s air it out for a few minutes and see. We immediately worked and chipped into it.”

Added Lowry: “We were just like, ‘Look we’re going to try.’ Nick threw us the press and everyone just said, ‘Alright let’s do it.’”

This never-say-die attitude from the Raptors was infectious and the Scotiabank Arena crowd definitely appeared to respond to it as you could literally hear the fans get back into the game as early as 1:10 into the fourth quarter.

” We’re gonna make one charge here at this thing”

The other huge reason why the Raptors made this ridiculous comeback was Lowry.

Like Miller said, he went “absolutely crazy” finishing with 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting, including 20 in the final frame, going 7-for-10 from the field and 4-for-6 from three-point range.

It was Lowry’s heroic shot-making that made Nurse’s defensive scheme work the way it did and, as a bonus, it was a lot of fun for the other Raptors to see him turn the clock back a bit to his older, more dominant days.

“I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like it,” said Nurse.

“All he said was ‘keep pushing,’” said Boucher. “He led us the right way, put us in great spots. Kyle does that every time. Even when people don’t see it. Kyle’s a great leader.”

“I mean, he’s a vet, he’s a 14-year pro and that’s what he does,” added Davis.

“Kyle is an elite player and a champion,” said Miller. “He knows what it takes to win, and he knows his game well. He’s willing to step up and hit those big shots.”

For Lowry, however, the comeback wasn’t about his own individual brilliance, it was always about the guys around him.

“I didn’t do it,” Lowry said. “We had a great team effort. Malcolm, Terence Davis, Rondae and Chris Boucher. I give them all the credit today.”

A class act to the end, the man whose nickname puts him “over everything,” put everyone else over himself.

Bunson's shot with two seconds left bounced off the rim, then Boucher headed to the line for a pair of free throws, the icing on the Raptors' 47-point quarter.

Toronto out-scored the Mavs 47-21 in the fourth quarter, due in large part to Raptors head coach Nick Nurse employing a full-court press defense that the Mavs just couldn't figure out. It was the biggest comeback win in Raptors franchise history and also the biggest blown lead in Mavs franchise history.

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle took "full responsibility" for his team's loss.

"Very disappointing loss," he said. "We got to a point where we lost our aggression. When you get hit with that kind of force, you've got to respond with equal or greater force, and we just didn't do it soon enough."

Tim Hardaway Jr., who had 16 points on the night, said it was a great lesson for Dallas.

"They were just taking it to us. Before you knew it, they cut the lead to 10 and then cut the lead to five," he said. "It shows that whenever you're up that much, you can't let up, you can't back down from the competition, you can't ease yourself into the win because the game isn't even over yet."

The Raptors are in Indianapolis against the Pacers on Monday, then return home to host the Boston Celtics on Christmas day.