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Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan protects the ball from Yogi Ferrell of the Dallas Mavericks on March 16, 2018.John E. Sokolowski

The Toronto Raptors staged yet another late-game comeback on Friday night, extending their NBA-leading win streak to 11 games with a tense 122-115 overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

That makes 18 wins in the past 19 games for the East-leading Raptors, who were led by 29 points from DeMar DeRozan and a 21-point, 12-rebound night by Jonas Valanciunas, while Kyle Lowry had the night off.

Delon Wright got his fourth start of the season in place of the resting Lowry, who had played 32 minutes in Thursday's 106-99 come-from-behind win over the Pacers in Indianapolis. OG Anunoby returned to Toronto's lineup after the starting small forward missed eight games with a sprained ankle.

The Mavericks are already eliminated from playoff contention. This 22-46 team was a far cry from the Mavs that defeated LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA final, launching then assistant coach Dwane Casey on to a head coaching job with the Raptors.

His former boss, Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle, had the highest praise for what Casey has built in Toronto.

"He's been one of the top coaches in the league for the past several years and if you look at where they were when he took over, they were in a total rebuild; now, they're one of the top teams in the East," Carlisle said. "That second group is to me one of the real keys to their team, and with the exception of Miles, they were mostly all drafted here and developed here and they made their identity here under Dwane. He'll be a strong candidate for coach of the year, and he's deserving of that recognition."

Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki agreed.

"He's really a defensive-minded coach, he's got these guys always up there in the defensive categories, top five, and that's how they've been winning games," said Nowitzki, who said he turned to Casey often when he worked for the Mavs. "Offensively, they share the ball, they've got their go-to guys who are having great years and I think this year in the playoffs, they're for real."

But Casey's Raptors didn't look like Eastern Conference leaders for much of Friday.

Compared to the frenzy inside Air Canada Centre last Friday when the NBA-leading Houston Rockets visited, the vibe on this occasion was subdued at first. The crowd was tardy arriving in large part because of an incident that occurred outside.

Police received a call about a suspicious package at one of the ACC's entrances just before 6 p.m. Authorities had to detonate it in a controlled explosion, so they shut down traffic in the area and closed some of the ACC gates, which caused many fans to enter the stadium late.

DeRozan had an 11-point first quarter, mostly forcing his way to the free-throw line. Yet the Mavericks kept pace, and Toronto held just a slim 29-27 lead after the first quarter.

Mid-way through the second, the Mavs went on a 13-2 run and seized the lead behind effortless-looking jumpers from 39-year-old Nowitzki and a flurry of buckets by J.J. Barea. Much as Brooklyn and Indiana had done against the Raptors in recent days, the Mavericks played to a half-time lead, 60-54.

The Raps didn't open the second half much better. They committed three fouls in the opening minute, and Dorian Finney-Smith erupted for a vicious dunk over Valanciunas. Dallas built a lead as big as 11 points with Harrison Barnes now scoring at will, while Toronto continued to struggle. The Mavs led 84-78 going into the final quarter.

"We're learning to be the hunted instead of the hunter. It's a different mindse," said Casey. "We're going to get their best shot so we've got to be focused and mental mistakes can't happen."

Big baskets from DeRozan, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka in the fourth paved another Toronto fourth-quarter comeback. A DeRozan jumper tied it with a minute left and it stayed that way to the buzzer.

Free throws by Valanciunas sealed the win in overtime as the Raptors improved to 52-17.

"I'm never completely happy… but I liked the fight, the way guys came together," said Casey of the slow start and the comeback. "Same as [Thursday] night – I thought they had grit. I like to use the grit because I think that's what helps you win in the NBA. Guys are showing that and it's a habit."

Next up for the Raptors is a Sunday afternoon visit from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

After former NBA star Charles Barkley picked the Toronto Raptors to win the NBA Eastern Conference, coach Dwane Casey says his focus is elsewhere. Casey says the playoffs-bound Raptors need to compete and not 'listen to the noise.'

The Canadian Press

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