Raps, Casey lose to Mavs

Raptors center Andrea Bargnani drives on Dallas Mavericks forward Lamar Odom in Dallas last night....

Raptors center Andrea Bargnani drives on Dallas Mavericks forward Lamar Odom in Dallas last night. (REUTERS/Mike Stone)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

DALLAS - The return to Dallas had plenty of well wishers for Dwane Casey but lacked the one thing he really wanted from the whole exercise — a win.

It wasn’t for a lack of effort, however, something you can say with regularity this season about the Raptors with confidence.

That is the early impact Casey, the former Mavericks assistant has had on this Raptors squad in the little time they have been his.

Oh, they’re going to lose their share, that’s no secret, but the Raptors are at least going to make teams earn each and every win they get.

Friday’s 99-86 loss to the Mavs was the first win by the defending NBA champs in four tries this season.

They might have got one the night before were it not for the last-second heroics of Kevin Durant.

Friday night the Mavs survived a third quarter 17-2 run by the Raptors by going on a 12-0 run of their own.

They opened the fourth quarter with a seven-point lead and more or less maintained that for the remainder of the game.

Wasted in the loss was a stunningly efficient shooting night from Andrea Bargnani, who missed seven shots all night — including his last five — from the field and finished with a game high and personal season high 30 points.

Ian Mahinmi, who comes off the bench for the Mavs, led Dallas with 19 points. The Raps dug themselves an early hole based primarily on their inability to pull down rebounds. After a quarter the Mavs were shooting 41%, which was worse than the Raptors at that point, but had a six-point lead and an 11-rebound edge in that department.

An impressive 12-0 run late in the second quarter got the Raps back in the game and they were only down by four at the half.

The Raps lost the services of back-up point guard Jerryd Bayless in the second quarter when he rolled his ankle and had to leave the game.

Anthony Carter doesn’t bring the kind of offence Bayless can so in that sense it was a huge loss for the Raptors.

Defensively, the Raps managed to avoid giving up a 100-point game to the opponent for the third straight game and managed to hold the Mavs to 44.5% shooting, which is the upper echelon of acceptance in the Casey manual.

The Casey pre-game love in was something to see. The Dallas press corps was out to greet the former Dallas assistant coach with handshakes, back pats, hugs and even the odd “good luck tonight” thrown in.

When one well-meaning scribe mentioned the defensive struggles the Mavs were currently having and tried to ascribe that to Casey’s departure, the former Mavs assistant moved quickly to put that to rest.

“No, no, no, no, please. No, no, no, not at all,’ Casey said. “Believe me. It’s a new group coming to a new system and trying to get it all gelled together.

Even Rick Carlisle, the guy who brought Casey to Dallas and helped get him back in the head coaching ranks, wasn’t about to single out Casey’s departure as the reason for this team’s early defensive woes, which he is most definitely aware of.

“No, we are a different team. If we have to say it’s because Dwane is no longer here that’s insulting to other people and that’s not right. But Dwane did a great job here and that’s why he’s a head coach again and deservedly so.”

Casey readily admitted he has watched all three Dallas games — he’s probably watched all the Orlando and Knicks games too if truth be told — and has drawn some of his conclusions.

“It’s a team that’s not together yet,” Casey said of the Mavs who came into the Raptors tilt still looking for their first win. “There’s no need to panic though,” he said. “If you look at the team’s history the last two or three years it’s always been a slow start, getting them to gel together. I think that’s a product of a veteran team. I’m more concerned about the Toronto Raptors right now. We have our own issues, our own learning curve and situations to learn each other, but yes, I’ve watched (the Mavs) from afar.”

Last night he got an up close look and while he didn’t get the win he would have liked, he could leave the arena knowing his team may not be at Dallas’ level yet but also that the gap is closing.

 


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