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Toronto Raptors rout Dallas Mavericks, 95-74

Raptors Mavericks

MIKE CASSESE/REUTERS Raptors guard Alan Anderson looks to pass in front of the Mavericks’ Vince Carter Friday night at the ACC.

They were waving towels on the bench, standing and cheering and smiling for the first time in what had to feel like eons for the beleaguered Raptors.

And in the aftermath of a victory so thorough it was almost shocking, all Dwane Casey could think of:

“Okay, let’s see what we do the next time.”

The Raptors hammered the Dallas Mavericks 95-74 at the Air Canada Centre on Friday night, a total dismantling of a solid opponent keyed by stifling Toronto defence.

It could have been seen as a major relief for a team that had lost six in a row and been entirely out of sorts in some of them but Casey, while impressed, was having none of it.

“No, no, no, no,” he said when asked if the rare victory was a relief for his 5-19 team. “Because we still have how many more to go? We still have to continue to stick to the basics and every man that steps on that floor has to be about defence.”

For one night, at least, Casey’s demands for defensive effort and accountability went heeded rather than ignored.

Toronto held Dallas to just 39 per cent shooting from the floor and forced the Mavs to miss all 13 of their three-point attempts. Considering Dallas had come in with a league-best record of at least one three-pointer in 1,108 games, that’s an accomplishment the Raptors should be proud of.

“The offence will take care of itself,” said Casey. “Some nights LK (Linas Kleiza) is going to be hot, some nights it’s going to be Jose (Calderon). some nights it’s going to be someone else but one thing that better be consistent if you want to stay on the floor is the defensive effort and the toughness.”

The win validates a change in outlook from Casey, who has gone back to an all-defence, all-the-time mentality, one that he got away from in the first quarter of the season.

“We’ve been doing close-out drills,” he said. “It sounds high-schoolish but we have to, we have to get back to the defensive fundamentals and principles and that’s on me. I got away from it, but from now on it’s going to be about that.

“If you don’t do it, no matter who you are, you don’t stay on the floor, it’s got to be that way. That’s not anything against anybody but for us to build and continue to get better, win or lose, it’s got to be that way.”

Whether the message sinks in now that the Raptors are entering what should be an easy portion of their schedule — three of their next four are at home and three of them are against teams with equally inept records — remains to be seen. The players, however, know they’ve been put on warning.

“It’s always good to go over the fundamentals,” said rookie Terrence Ross, who had 18 points and five rebounds in one of his best games of the season. “We’ve been going over the fundamentals for a week now and it’s starting to pay off, we’re starting to do the little things right.”

It helps, too, when some of the Raptors are making three-pointers like they were layups. Kleiza led Toronto with 20 points and hit four of his five three-pointers in the final quarter.

“Linas had one of his nights,” said Casey. “He has one every blue moon and he had one tonight, it looked good.”

But the win has to feel like the lifting of a three-tonne rock off the team’s collective shoulders. Missing the injured Andrea Bargnani, Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields and with tensions at a season-high, the need for a win was acute. And winning as easily as they did, avoiding those five- or seven-minute lulls that have ruined so many games already was even better.

“It was fun today to see everybody smiling, everybody helping each other,” said Calderon. “That’s the way we have to play.”

thestar.com – Sports

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