Mavericks endure historic collapse, but big picture remains promising

Trae Young guarding Luka Doncic during a Hawks vs. Mavericks game.
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Ricky Dimon

NBA

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

The Dallas Mavericks led by 30 points with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter. They led by 23 going into the fourth quarter.

And lost.

Yes, the Toronto Raptors staged their biggest comeback in franchise history to stun the visiting Mavericks 110-107 on Sunday evening. It was the largest regular-season deficit overcome in the NBA in more than—but almost exactly—a decade, as the Kings defeated the Bulls from 30 points down on Dec. 21, 2009. Prior to Sunday, NBA teams that trailed by at least 20 points going into the fourth quarter were 3-1,667.

How it happened

History was not on the Raptors’ side, and neither were Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, and Norman Powell. That’s right; they did it without their best player, another full-time starter, and an occasional starter.

Enter Kyle Lowry. Toronto’s second-leading scorer at 20.2 points per game, Lowry delivered 32 points on 12-for-23 shooting (5-for-13 from three-point range). Twenty of his 32 points came in the fourth quarter. He also recorded 10 assists and eight rebounds while turning the ball over only once. The Raptors, who now carry momentum into a Christmas Day showdown with Boston, also got 21 points off the bench from Chris Boucher and fellow reserve man Rondae Hollis-Jefferson came up with 18. The home team tied the score at 95-95 with more than five minutes remaining, took its first lead of the second half at 98-97 with 4:31 left, and ultimately dominated the fourth quarter by a laughable 47-21 margin.

“I would say historically we’ve always been a team that fights,” head coach Nick Nurse commented. “In my time here, we hardly ever mail it in. It’s a good characteristic to have. That thought barely came into my head there, and I said, ‘We’re going to give it a go here to start the fourth.'”

Big picture

Of course, Toronto also benefited from plenty of help. The Mavericks equaled their biggest blown lead in franchise history, failing to play any real semblance of defense over the final 15 minutes. They did, however, have an excuse. While the Raptors were missing three key players, Dallas was without one of the best players in the entire NBA. Luka Doncic was sidelined from a fourth consecutive contest due to a knee injury.

With Doncic gone, the Mavs have stunned Milwaukee and Philadelphia on the road, nearly beat Boston, and obviously should have rolled over the defending NBA champions. They are 19-10 and in fifth place in the Western Conference heading into a three-day break in advance of a post-Christmas date with San Antonio (be sure to check out our free NBA predictions for that game and all others).

“I think today was actually the best thing that could’ve happened to us,” guard Tim Hardaway Jr. explained. “It’s a tough loss, being up as much as 30, but it shows that whenever you’re up, you can’t let up. You can’t back down from the competition. You can’t ease yourself into the win, because the game isn’t even over yet. I think that moving forward this will put an anger and a killer instinct mentality even more into our guys.”

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