Barea helps Mavs hold off Raptors
DALLAS — As Tuesday’s game between the Dallas Mavericks and Toronto Raptors was winding to a close, Mavericks guard J.J. Barea had one of those flashbacks that he would rather forget.
So many times this season, the Mavs had been in position to win a game, but so many times they fell short. However, thanks to Barea, the Mavs pushed all the right buttons down the stretch and were able to upset the highly regarded Raptors 98-93 before a sellout crowd of 20,005 at American Airlines Center.
It was just the third win in the last 11 games for the Mavs, who increased their record to 3-16 in games decided by seven points or less. The Raptors, meanwhile, lost for only the second time in their last 14 games and saw their record drop to 23-9.
Coming off the Christmas break, the Mavs desperately wanted to get some success under their belt before hitting the road for a three-game trip which starts Wednesday in Indiana. And a win over one of the NBA’s elite squads was a confidence builder for the Mavs, who led by 11 points early in the fourth quarter.
“I was thinking about our problems closing out (games),” said Barea, who scored a team-high 20 points. “In the last three minutes I was like: ‘I hope it won’t happen again.’”
Things turned out much better for the Mavs this time in the clutch thanks to some clutch shooting by Barea. This time around, after Toronto’s Serge Ibaka missed a short jumper, Barea drove across the lane and scooped in a shot to give the Mavs a 98-93 lead with just 10.2 seconds left.
And while Barea was the offensive star for the Mavs, Wesley Matthews shined the brightest on defense. Matched up against DeMar DeRozan — he was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week earlier Tuesday — Matthews held the Raptors’ main player to just eight points on 3-of-16 shooting.
“Wes is extremely experienced,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “He has an iron will to make it as hard as possible on these great players.
“It took a lot out of him. He expended so much energy defensively.”
Raptors coach Dwane Casey lamented the fact that his team shot just 33.7 percent from the field.
“None of us came out in the right disposition, ready to compete,” Casey said. “Any time you shoot 33 percent you’re not going to beat too many people in the league.
“Defensively, I thought we tried to lock it down the stretch. But again, the way they started the game going coast-to-coast, we are still on Christmas break.”
Other than Barea, the Mavs got 18 points and seven rebounds form Dirk Nowitzki, 16 points and 10 boards from Harrison Barnes, and 15 points and eight rebounds from rookie Maxi Kleber.
Kyle Lowry paced the Raptors with a game-high 23 points and eight rebounds, Jonas Valanciunas collected 17 points and 11 boards, and Ibaka added 12 points, 12 bounds and three blocks.
NOTES: Before Tuesday’s game against Toronto, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle talked about the challenges rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has endured while facing some of the league’s best playmakers. “I think every starting point guard that he faces is going to be a helluva player,” Carlisle said. “This has been an epic task for him, and that’s our job is to get him as prepared as possible to make sure that he can put pressure on the other guy as well.”... F Harrison Barnes said he knows he can be a better closer. But coach Rick Carlisle said the Mavs as a whole can help Barnes become a better closer. “We love the fact that he embraces the challenge of being that guy — he really has since he’s gotten here (in the summer of 2016),” Carlisle said. “It’s an on-going thing. It’s not something that you just flip the switch and all of a sudden you’re an NBA closer. Or I should say an NBA No. 1 closer.” ... Raptors G DeMar DeRozan was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 34 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists in three games last week. During a 114-109 win over Philadelphia last Thursday, DeRozan posted career highs of 45 points and six 3-pointers. He also scored 29 points last Saturday against the Sixers and 28 points on Dec. 20 against Charlotte.