TORONTO â€” When he’s home at night watching other teams play, DeMar DeRozan’s thoughts wander to what the Toronto Raptors might be like at full strength.
Until then, it’s all about scrapping and clawing for playoff positioning without their all-star point guard Kyle Lowry.
DeRozan scored 25 points to lift Toronto to a much-needed 100-78 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, their 10th game without Lowry, who is recovering from wrist surgery. And in the post-game dressing room, DeRozan talked about missing his backcourt mate.
“It’s something that we’ve got to be patient with and understand we’ve got to figure this thing out now, without having Kyle, and once he gets back make sure it’s an easy transition for everybody,” DeRozan said. “(We miss) just everything. He makes the game easier on everybody. You look up at the scoreboard and we have 125 points.”
Jonas Valanciunas added 14 points and 12 rebounds as the Raptors (39-28) won for the first time in three games. Norman Powell chipped in with 19 points, while Patrick Patterson and Delon Wright added 11 apiece.
Harrison Barnes led the Mavericks (28-38) with 18 points. Dirk Nowitzki, who at 38 recently became one of six players in NBA history to score more than 30,000 points, added 17 points.
Back home after going 2-3 on the road, the Raptors led for much of the night but didn’t put double digits on their opponent until the third quarter. Toronto took a 79-66 advantage into the fourth.
Just two points were scored in the first four minutes of the fourth before Patterson knocked down a three-pointer to give the Raptors an 18-point lead. He would drill another long bomb to stretch the gap to 21 points with 6:10 left in front of a capacity Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,800.
A basket by Powell with 4:04 left made it a 23-point game, sending some satisfied Raptors fans to the exits, perhaps to beat the late-winter storm that was pounding the city.
Lowry could miss the rest of the regular season. Patterson said it’s impossible to narrow down the injured guard’s impact to one of two things.
“Kyle does so much,” Patterson said. “He’s so dependable, he’s so reliable, he does so much for us. Everything, you can’t just pinpoint one thing he does better than the other.”
With 15 games left in the regular-season, the Raptors â€” fourth in the Eastern Conference â€” continue to chase Washington and Boston, who each had three-and-a-half games on Toronto ahead of Monday’s action.
“I don’t think you live your life looking at (the standings), but it’s important,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We’ve got what, 15, 16 games left? And to understand what significance it means in these next 16 games is home court, are playoff standings.
“We’re just trying to get our rhythm, our mojo back, trying to get a rhythm without Kyle. We have a certain personality without him that we haven’t gotten yet. And it’s nobody’s fault it’s the DNA as much as anything else.”
Cleveland leads the East, five-and-a-half games ahead of Toronto.
“We’re all looking at it. We talk about it,” Powell said of the standings. “We talk about how close the playoff seeding race is right now. This is the best part of the season, fighting for playoff position, especially in the East. It’s really, really close. We wanna get hot late and go on a run, jump up in the standings. We’re looking at it, but the most important thing is getting the wins.”
They won Monday with a solid defensive effort, holding the Mavs to 36 per cent shooting while shooting 47 per cent. They dominated the glass, outrebounding Dallas 53-34.
Ball movement and getting stops, Casey said, won them the game.
“It makes the game a lot easier when you do that, that’s the way we want to play, I thought we had a good rhythm from that tonight and that’s the key to it, getting stops,” he said. “You don’t have to run an offence, you don’t have to worry about not knowing, just run the floor.”
A three-pointer by Barnes gave the Mavs an early five-point lead, but that was as big as it would get in the first quarter and Dallas took a 26-25 lead into the second.
A three-point running jump shot from Patterson capped an 8-2 Raptors run that gave them a five-point lead early in the second quarter. Powell drilled a three of his own six minutes later that put Toronto up by seven. The Raptors took a 50-46 advantage into the halftime break.
DeRozan had 11 points in the third, including a driving dunk â€” accompanied by a snarling face â€” that gave the Raptors an 11-point lead. A pair of free throws from Jakob Poeltl sent the Raptors into the fourth with a 13-point lead.
The Raptors host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, play in Detroit on Friday, then are back home to host Indiana on Sunday.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press