With teammate Kyle Lowry ailing, DeMar DeRozan put the Toronto Raptors on his shoulders Wednesday night.
DeRozan had a career-high 40 points to rally the Raptors to a 93-85 home win over the Dallas Mavericks, their first victory in three games. And with fellow guard Lowry struggling with the stomach flu — he went 0-for-10 from the field, including 0-for-6 from beyond the arc — it was DeRozan who led Toronto to its third straight decision over the Mavs.
"Once I saw Kyle with his head hanging down and holding his stomach, I knew he wasn't feeling too well," DeRozan said. "This loss would've hurt and we didn't want to lose three in a row.
"I just told myself to try do as much as I can to win, try to pull this one off and keep my team in it."
DeRozan finished 15-of-22 from the field, nine-of-14 from the free-throw line and hit the only three-pointer he tried. He put an exclamation point on his outstanding performance by recording the steal and going the length of the court to score and give Toronto (21-20) a 92-85 lead with 1:48 remaining.
"He got into the flow of the game," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "In the first quarter we weren't getting those flow shots.
"After that we started getting into our offence, we ran the pick and rolls. They started blitzing them and he (DeRozan) did a good job finding others and the ball found him. It was growth on his part from being double-teamed and being patient enough to get the ball back and be able to score."
Although Lowry only managed three points — off free throws — Casey praised his guard's contributions in other areas of the game.
"Kyle didn't stop playing," Casey said. "He dove on the floor, go his hands in there defensively on loose balls.
"He affected the game without scoring. You don't expect him to go 0-for-10 but he affected the game."
Grievis Vazquez scored 17 points and Jonas Valanciunas added 12 for Toronto, which rebounded from a horrid start as Dallas stormed out to a 34-15 first-quarter lead.
"After the first quarter I thought it was going to be a blowout," Casey said. "But in the second half we got the game back under control and got defence in the game.
"You get in a free-flowing game with a great offensive team like that and you're in trouble. Our starts are concerning . . . but for us to score only 15 points is alarming."
Monta Ellis had 21 points for Dallas (25-19) while former Raptors Jose Calderon and Vince Carter had 13 and eight points, respectively. Brandan Wright also had 13 points as all-star forward Dirk Nowitzki (rest) was inactive despite scoring 17 points in a 102-97 road win over Cleveland on Monday night.
Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle said DeRozan was tough to pin down.
"He was doing a little bit of everything," he said. "He was driving and he was making shots.
"They got in transition a lot because of turnovers and he's a really good transition player."
Dallas committed 21 turnovers, including nine in the fourth quarter, and Toronto took advantage with 25 points off the Mavericks' miscues. The Raptors improved to 11-2 when holding an opponent to under 90 points.
"Yes, too many turnovers," said Carlisle. "We played two good quarters and they played three good quarters.
"It's a 48-minute game and we have to do it for four quarters and that's the story.'
Carter spent his first six-plus NBA seasons with the Raptors, winning the '98-'99 top rookie award and slam dunk contest (2000) while with the club. But the player dubbed 'Air Canada' for his high-flying performances while in Toronto was routinely booed every time he touched the ball on Wednesday but had a thunderous first-half dunk over DeRozan.
"It surprised me, I wasn't expecting it," Carter said. "I said sorry, I didn't know it was still possible."
Added DeRozan: "He said he didn't know it was me, if he knew it was me he would've tried a layup but he got me. I was kind of upset with that a little bit but he got me."
Calderon received a solid ovation in the pre-game introductions. He spent eight years with the Raptors before being dealt to Detroit last January and ultimately signing as a free agent in the summer with Dallas.
"We couldn't match their intensity," Calderon said. "Then they made their run and we couldn't keep up with that."
DeRozan's layup and free throw put Toronto ahead 85-82 with 3:38 left before Amir Johnson's three-pointer with 2:59 remaining gave the Raptors an 88-84 advantage. Valanciunas's field goal with just under five minutes left put Toronto ahead 82-81, their first lead of the contest since early in the first.
DeRozan's 15-point outburst in the third pulled Toronto to within 73-68 of the Mavericks heading into the third. Vazquez's three-pointer with under a minute remaining cut Dallas's lead to 71-68 but Ellis's field goal rounded out the scoring and gave the visitors their five-point advantage.
Vazquez's 11 points helped Toronto outscore Dallas 31-17 in the second to cut the Mavericks' half-time advantage to 51-46. After failing to register a three-pointer in the first, the Raptors were 4 of 6 from the arc in the second to turn a game Dallas led by 21 points at one time into a much closer affair. DeRozan led the way for the home side with 16 points while Calderon and Carter had 12 and eight points, respectively, for the Mavs.
Calderon and Carter helped stake Dallas to its 19-point lead after the first, scoring 10 and five points, respectively. Calderon anchored a 13-0 run with eight points that put the Mavericks ahead 21-8 before Derozan — who had 12 of Toronto's points — scored the Raptors' first basket in nearly five minutes.
Carter added insult to injury with the dunk over DeRozan and subsequent free throw that put Dallas ahead 24-10. The Mavericks shot 14 of 24 (58.3 per cent) from the field and 3 of 5 from the arc while Toronto was 0-for-5 from three-point range and 5 of 19 (26.3 per cent) overall.
NOTES — Carter, who averaged 23.4 points per game in his 403 career appearances with Toronto, turns 37 on Sunday . . . Calderon remains Toronto's all-time leader in assists (3,770) and free-throw percentage (.887) . . . Raptors head coach Dwane Casey spent three seasons as an assistant with Dallas under Carlisle, helping the squad capture the 2011 NBA title. Casey improved to 3-2 as a head coach versus his former team . . . Also on Dallas's roster is veteran centre Samuel Dalembert, a native of Haiti who grew up in Montreal and is in his 11th NBA season . . . Toronto entered action having made 105 three-pointers this month, third-most in the NBA.