Kleiza scores 20 points, Raptors beat Mavericks 95-74
Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson, bottom, tries to drive to the net past Dallas Mavericks forward Elton Brand, top, during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, December 14, 2012 9:47PM EST
TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors finally breathed a big sigh of relief Friday.
Linas Kleiza drained 20 points -- 12 of them coming from four three-pointers in the fourth-quarter -- as the Raptors defeated the Dallas Mavericks 95-74 to end an ugly six-game losing skid.
Rookie Terrence Ross added 18 points for the short-handed Raptors (5-19), who have won just two of their last 14 matchups. Jose Calderon and DeMar DeRozan finished with 14 points apiece.
Chris Kaman had 15 points, while Brandan Wright added 13 for the Mavericks (11-12).
The victory came after a strong effort on both ends of the floor for a beleaguered team that had been making headlines for all the wrong reasons the past couple of weeks.
They shot 41 per cent from the floor and outrebounded the Mavs 47-38. And when their shooting went south during a five-and-a-half minute dryspell in the third quarter, their defence kept them in the game, and they took a 69-55 lead into the fourth quarter.
Kleiza, leading a strong second unit, lit it up from beyond the arc in the fourth, as No. 4 of his three-pointers gave the Raptors a 90-63 lead with 5:25 left in the game.
Ross took flight for a massive dunk make it a 29-point lead -- the Raptors' biggest of the season -- on the next play, and Toronto cruised to a much-needed victory, the fans cheering the team off the floor with a standing ovation for a change.
The Raptors won despite missing second- and third-leading scorers Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry, who aren't expected back any time soon. Bargnani, who vented earlier in the day to Italian newspaper La Gazetta dello Sport calling the Raptors the worst team in the NBA, is out indefinitely with a torn ligament in his right elbow and a strained right wrist. Lowry is expected to miss about 10 days with a tear in his right triceps.
Translated, Bargnani told La Gazetta, "Nothing has worked from the beginning of the season. We are pretty much the worst team in the NBA. This summer's moves in the market were made to build a winning team, but we are not winning. . ."
Raptors coach Dwane Casey responded pre-game, saying he didn't believe those were Bargnani's exact words, that much had "been lost in translation."
The Mavericks, meanwhile, are still without their all-star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who underwent knee surgery in October and has yet to play this season.
Former long-time Raptor Vince Carter finished with just four points in 26 minutes, much to the delight of the crowd. Fans at the Air Canada Centre booed Carter when he checked into the game, almost eight years to the day since the Raptors traded him to the New Jersey Nets.
One fan hollered "You suck Carter!" to which the 35-year-old turned mid-play and replied with a grin "Thank you."
Calderon had nine first-quarter points to help the Raptors out to a strong start. Also in Toronto's favour, the Mavs coughed up seven points on turnovers. The Mavericks were up 25-24 heading into the second.
The Raptors outscored their visitors 30-16 in the second, taking a 14-point lead on a layup by Davis late in the quarter. They took a 54-41 advantage into the dressing room at halftime.
The Raptors went five-and-a-half minutes without a basket in the third quarter, but their defence held the Mavs to 4-for-19 shooting. Toronto was up 69-55 with one quarter left.