The Toronto Raptors got back in the win column Sunday night with a three-point road victory over a very tough Dallas Mavericks team.
Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry led the way, but the team benefitted from contributions across the board as six different players scored in double figures and the reserves scored 36 points.
For more on how it all transpired, here are four takeaways from the Raptors' tough road win.
Finding a way to win
The saying goes "a win is a win," and this Raptors team found a way to earn a very crucial win despite a big setback.
Toronto overcame a very subpar third-quarter performance to rally in the fourth and earn a win in a very tough environment. The Raptors handed the Mavericks their seventh loss at American Airlines Center this season as they boast an elite home record of 18-7 (.720).
After being outscored 30-15 and shooting just 4-for-19 from the field in the third, things looked very bleak for Toronto as it entered the fourth quarter trailing by three points. Things looked even worse when the Mavericks opened the final frame with four unanswered points to build a seven-point lead, but the Raptors quickly responded. Two 3-pointers cut the deficit to one point as it would be a battle down the stretch.
In the final six minutes of the game, the Raptors outscored the Mavs 20-14, as they leaned on their starting unit to get things done. The experience and playmaking capabilities of Toronto's experienced starting unit paid dividends on both ends of the floor, especially the duo of…
Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry
Leonard and Lowry led the Raptors to tonight's win, looking like the formidable duo they were assembled to be.
Leonard, who has now scored 20 or more points in 22 consecutive games (one shy of a franchise record), scored a team-high 33 points (on 10-for-23 shooting) and grabbed 10 rebounds. Lowry bounced back from a 2-for-9 shooting performance in Houston Friday with 19 points, nine assists and five rebounds. While Lowry shot 5-for-14 from the field Sunday, the four-time All-Star was 5-for-10 from deep and sank all four of his free throw attempts.
In the aforementioned period of the final six minutes of the game, the duo combined to score or assist on 16 of the team's final 20 points. With as much time as they have missed separately, nights like these are important in restoring the synergy between the two stars - something that will be huge down the stretch run.
We're running out of adjectives to describe the play of rookie sensation Luka Doncic.
Tonight, over a month before his 20th birthday, the 19-year-old recorded the second triple-double of his young career. It wasn't just any old triple-double, either.
He scored a career-high 35 points.
He grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds.
He dished out 10 assists.
👀 @luka7doncic (35 PTS, 12 REB, 10 AST) becomes the first teenager in @NBAHistory to record a 30-point triple-double! #NBARooks #MFFL pic.twitter.com/DoIZQXTU63- NBA (@NBA) January 28, 2019
It's been echoed to the point that it almost sounds cliché, but Doncic has the poise, presence and approach of a player well beyond his years. What's scary is that there is still plenty of room for improvement, as there is for all rookies.
With Doncic recording just the second of what will be many triple-doubles in his career, it is only a matter of time before the league is his for the taking.
The road ahead
The Raptors, who moved to 37-15 on the season, are one of just two teams that have played 52 games this season (Suns).
With the team having played an intense schedule up to this point in the season, things will be downhill in a sense that they only have 30 games remaining over the final 2.5 months of the season. In fact, the Raptors will not play in a back-to-back until March 10-March 11, when they play the Heat and Cavs on consecutive nights.
Things get no easier opponent-wise as Toronto hosts Milwaukee on Thursday in a game that will have plenty of implication for playoff standings and seeding atop the Eastern Conference, but the Raptors benefit from three days rest leading up to the showdown.
This season, Toronto is 8-2 when coming off of two or more days of rest and 2-0 when coming off of three or more days rest.
With this upcoming break now and All-Star break less than three weeks away, the Raptors will get much-needed practice and recovery time ahead of the stretch run.