I don't want to make Toronto sound like the Hinterlands, and the Raptors do seem to have a significant advantage playing these early afternoon Sunday matinee games, but you usually see opponents put up a bigger fight than this.
The Mavericks put up no such fight, which is odd because most teams usually give you the "OK, I know nobody's watching back home, but we're up at this hour and we've already dealt with customs; might as well try."
Nobody was watching. A few channels away, the Cowboys were getting skunked in Minnesota, but that's no excuse for the Mavs to come through with this sort of effort. Toronto? They're living right, these days, executing on both ends while remaining a truly tough guard offensively.
Toronto's bench, to me, was the key. Jose Calderon(notes) came through with 15 points, seven assists, one turnover, and two steals in less than half a game. Antoine Wright(notes) played well, got in Dirk Nowitzki's(notes) grill, Amir Johnson(notes) had 10 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes, and the Raptor starters were no slouch.
Dallas managed to whittle the game down to something within its reach, but a few missed shots and technical fouls took care of that.
Toronto is rolling. Just five turnovers all afternoon. Wow.
No, it wasn't the easiest game to watch — 76 combined free throw attempts will do that. But, for certain spells, you did see a fair bit of offensive execution from both teams. That was nice.
For two good teams, Utah's 20 turnovers stood out. It not an astounding number, a team will turn it over on a fifth of itsr possessions usually once per night in this league. But in a good game between two good teams, 20 turnovers is sort of a lottery-styled presence, and it was enough to make the difference. That, and all the hackin'.
37 points for Carmelo Anthony(notes), who turned it over seven times but still had his way most of the time against what I thought was a solid Utah defense (they've been pretty good all year). Chauncey Billups(notes) had 29 points on 13 shots because he got to the line so much, and Nene's 18 and seven were nice to watch.
At one point in the second quarter, Nene reminded us of why, exactly, he was drafted so high out of seemingly nowhere in 2002. The go-to quote around the then-Nene Hilario(notes) was that he could gather a pass at the three-point line (the elbow extended), take two full steps (long strides) and throw down with one hand. His length and hops made it so he could cover nearly 24 feet to the rim, and 10 feet in the air up to the rim legally, without dribbling.
Nene didn't exactly catch the ball at the three-point line last night, but he was a short step inside of it, and he dunked without dribbling, legally. Pretty cool to see — especially considering all that this cat has been through.
I don't know if Denver will establish itself as a clear second-in-command behind the Lakers this year out West, but this was a fine showing.
(Also, don't freak out over Chris Andersen's(notes) zero points and four rebounds in 21 minutes. He had two blocks, didn't attempt a shot, and I noticed four different "SAME!" rebound chances that saw him give it up to either Nene or Kenyon Martin(notes).)