Raptors aim to end road trip on high note vs. Mavs

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The Toronto Raptors defense has been a key factor on a successful road trip so far and it will be tested again Saturday night against the host Dallas Mavericks.

The Raptors have gone 3-1 on their five-game trip with strong defensive efforts and will need another such effort when they face the Mavericks duo of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

Doncic scored 33 points and added 11 assists and 10 rebounds Thursday in a 106-103 loss to the host New York Knicks. Porzingis had 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks after a slow start against his former team.

Porzingis rebounded from a 1-for-11, four-point performance Monday against the Boston Celtics.

“He made some very positive strides tonight,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “I loved the way he worked himself into the game on the offensive boards and with running and cutting.”

He will have to contend with a Raptors defense that held Damian Lillard to nine points in a 114-106 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday. Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 36 points and Fred VanVleet added 30 in Portland.

“Offense comes and goes,” VanVleet said. “The defense has been pretty consistent for us, except for a lack of defensive rebounding. In spurts, I think we did a really good job of following our coverages and game plan and just trying to make it tough for them — two of the best scorers in the game (Lillard and CJ McCollum), so I think we did a decent job.”

The Raptors have been doing it without Kyle Lowry (fractured thumb), Serge Ibaka (sprained ankle) and Patrick McCaw (knee surgery). They also did not have OG Anunoby (bruised eye) in Portland and it is not certain whether he will play in Dallas.

The Raptors have focused on limiting the shots of the opposing team’s best player.

LeBron James took 15 shots and made five when the Raptors beat the Los Angeles Lakers 113-104 on Sunday. Kawhi Leonard took 11 shots and made two in the Los Angeles Clippers‘ 98-88 win over Toronto on Monday. Lillard took only 12 shots on Wednesday, but he did have 10 assists.

“You are rolling the dice a little bit with these schemes,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “But if you get the work on the primary player first of all and then get the rest of the guys to do what they are supposed to do in their help situations, whether it’s blitz or just help on drives and make it difficult for them, like I said, you open up some other stuff.”

The Mavericks are returning home from a 1-2 road trip. Any pressure the Raptors apply will be nothing new to Doncic. He is facing more double teams and physical play, but he has not faltered.

“He’s a great player,” Carlisle said. “One of the best players on the planet. I don’t know how many times you’re going to need me to say that.”

Doncic draws attention from opposing defenses because he has the ball so much and Carlisle sees no reason to change that.

“When it’s necessary we’re alleviating some of the usage, but frankly, why would we want to do that?” Carlisle said. “But I’ll keep communicating with him on how he’s doing physically.”

–Field Level Media