DALLAS -- The Toronto Raptors bolted out to a 13-2 lead and never looked back in taking out the Dallas Mavericks 94-86 on Saturday night at American Airlines Center. The Raptors (44-29) clinched a playoff spot with the victory, which was also their fifth win in a row as they head home to begin an important string of four games at Air Canada Centre. DeMar DeRozan, coming off consecutive 40-point games, needed only more of a mortal night to get past Dallas (31-41) for the second time this month. DeRozan and forward Serge Ibaka each scored 18 points to lead the Raptors. DeRozan was 8 of 17 from the floor with six assists. "Now making it in consecutive years and trying to build on what we did last year," DeRozan said of clinching a playoff spot. "It's definitely big and especially with a couple of guys (coming back from injury), that's going to help us once we get in that moment, so it's big." One lull early in the fourth quarter in which Toronto's possessions amounted to three missed shots and four turnovers opened the door for Dallas to get within 79-74 thanks to a 10-0 run. But that door slammed shut quickly with consecutive baskets by Ibaka to increase the lead to 83-74 with 6:11 to go. "It's one step up the ladder," Raptors reserve forward Patrick Patterson said. "The layoffs is where we want to get back to, the Eastern Conference finals is where we want to get back to. So it's just another step up the ladder to get to the top, to get to the ultimate goal." Ibaka finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, and Patterson contributed 14 points, including a corner 3-pointer with 59 seconds to go to stem a mini-Mavs run and make it 92-83. After he hit the shot, he turned around and had a few words for the Mavs' bench. As he ran by, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle fired back. They drew double technical fouls. "I'm not going to let a guy unnecessarily taunt our bench," Carlisle said. "I take exception to it." Dallas simply couldn't find enough firepower outside of forward Harrison Barnes, who led all scorers with 23 points. The Mavs didn't have another player join Barnes in double figures until reserve point guard Yogi Ferrell with 4:27 left in the game to cut Toronto's lead to 83-77. Seth Curry, making his second consecutive start at point guard, finished with 11 points after hitting an inconsequential 3-pointer in the waning moments. He finished 2 of 6 from beyond the arc. Dirk Nowitzki finished with just nine points and guard Wesley Matthews had another tough shooting night, going 2-of-12 from the floor for four points. Center Nerlens Noel managed just three points. The Mavs shot 37.8 percent from the floor and were 7 of 28 (25 percent) from 3-point range. "You know, defensively this is a really good team. You have to move the ball from side to side," Barnes said. "We had some open looks there, but we just couldn't get some of them to drop. This was just a tough night for us." NOTES: Raptors F DeMarre Carroll sat out Saturday's game with a sore lower back. PJ Tucker started. ... Mavericks C Nerlens Noel made his second consecutive start. ... The Mavericks are headed toward the franchise's first losing season under owner Mark Cuban. He purchased the franchise in January 2000. "It just is what it is, and there's not a whole lot I can do," Cuban said. "I guess I can go to Russia and ask them to hack the NBA and put out some fake news."
Raptors jump ahead early in fifth straight win
The Sports Xchange | Mar 26