TORONTO - Whatever sense of relief the Toronto Raptors enjoyed Friday, coach Dwane Casey warned the feeling would be brief.
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.
But Casey warned it's merely one win with a long road ahead.
"No, no, no, no," Casey said when asked if the victory gave him any sense of validation. "Because we've still got how many more games to play?"
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).
Casey said the team had returned to basics the past few days, because "that's the only thing you can do when you're knocked down and you're in a hole."
"Everyone that steps on that floor has to be defensive minded. The defensive effort has to be consistent if you want to stay on the floor."
And indeed, the victory came with one of the most solid defensive efforts of the season for a beleaguered team that had been making headlines for all the wrong reasons the past couple of weeks.
They outrebounded the Mavs 47-38. They forced the Mavericks to cough up 26 points on turnovers. And when their shooting went south during a five-and-a-half minute dry spell in the third quarter, their defence kept them in the game, and they took a 69-55 lead into the fourth quarter.
"We're here to win, to lose it got old," Kleiza said. "We've got to put more effort into it. To get back to fundamentals, our defence was great last year. We've kind of got to go back to that. Our defence was one of the best in the NBA and we've got to go back to it."
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 to 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 also held the Mavericks to zero three-pointers, ending their NBA record of 1,108 games with a three-pointer made.
Afterward, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle defended Casey, who's been the target of increasing criticism through the Raptors' ugly early season.
"They played great and we played poorly. They had a lot to do with us playing poorly," Carlisle said. "After tonight, it's very, very clear that whatever problems the Raptors franchise have is completely unrelated to coaching because Dwane Casey is doing a great job with a roster that's beat up. I just have so much respect for him."
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. . ."
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 Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,132. Fans 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.
NOTES: Steve Johnson and Donald Jones of the Buffalo Bills were at the game ahead of Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks at Rogers Centre. . . The Raptors host the Houston Rockets on Sunday before travelling to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers on Tuesday. They return home for a pair of games against Detroit and Orlando before departing for another three-game road trip. . . The Mavericks had won 14 of their previous 17 meetings against Toronto.