DeMar DeRozan pours in 40 points, Jonas Valanciunas adds 32 as Toronto Raptors roll past Detroit Pistons 109-91 in season opener
TORONTO –He was introduced as ‘Mr. I am Toronto’ and then DeMar DeRozan went out and lived up to the name.
Were it not for DeRozan’s scoring exploits, the only topic of conversation this morning from a Raptors standpoint would have been Jonas Valanciunas.
But as dominant as Valanciunas was in the big-man game, it was DeRozan who stole this game away from all would-be opening night heroes as the Raptors got the regular season started with a 109-91 win over the Detroit Pistons.
DeRozan, who signed a max-deal, five-year, $139-million contract this past off season after not even listening to another pitch from another market, was locked in from the get-go, hitting 17-of his 27 attempts and all six of his shots from the free throw line.
But for the first half, it was Valanciunas who looked to be headed for the monster game.
Three minutes into the game, the big centre made his own night substantially easier.
With Andre Drummond in front of him at the elbow, Valanciunas pump faked and then came across the front of the Pistons star with his right elbow, connecting solidly with Drummond’s jaw.
The Pistons big man went down and did not return until there were just over four minutes remaining in the half. Valanciunas went in for an uncontested dunk and didn’t really slow down again the rest of the half.
With Drummond on the bench counting his chicklets, Valanciunas went to work, first on Aron Baynes and then on Boban Marjanovic.
The 6-foot-10 Aussie and the 7-foot-3 Serb were no match for Valanciunas, who would finish the half with 21 points including 11-of-13 from the line on his way to a career-high 32-point night.
Drummond’s absence wasn’t a game-long thing but while he was out Valanciunas took advantage.
Midway through the second, he put Marjanovic on a poster, pump faking the big man off balance and then dunking over him as Marjanovic tried to stay with him on the way to the basket.
If it wasn’t the highlight moment of Valalnicunas’ career, it will certainly be the one that gets the most YouTube hits.
The Raptors needed all of that and the 40 points they got from DeRozan as the Pistons, playing without starting point guard Reggie Jackson, refused to go away. Forwards Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris at least kept the Pistons within range, Harris going off for 22 and Morris chipping in with 17.
Normally the Raptors would look to Kyle Lowry for some needed scoring production, but he struggled for most of the first three quarters, finally coming on a bit in the fourth to finish with 10.
Lowry through, as he always does, found ways to contribute, finishing with seven assists and five rebounds to go along with his 10 points.
Lowry and the rest of the team had a tough night shooting from distance. As a team, the Raptors were just 2-for-14 from beyond the arc with Lowry and Carroll each hitting one.
DeRozan’s career high coming in was 42 points and he had a great shot at bettering that last night, coming in with about six minutes remaining in the game following his 40-point effort through three quarters.
But DeRozan did not score again, settling for 40 — just the third Raptor in team history to score 30 or more on opening night. The other two were Vince Carter, who did it most recently in 2003 with 39 against the New Jersey Nets., and Alvin Robertson, who had 30 in 1995.
Lost in the big games by both DeRozan and Valanciunas was a pretty successful rookie debut by forward Pascal Siakam who got the start in place of the injury Jared Sullinger.
True to his word, Siakam stuck to what he does best and that’s running the floor, bringing the energy and rebounding the basketball.
The native of Cameroon finished with four points and nine rebounds in just 21 minutes.
Fellow rookie Jakob Poeltl also got his first taste of regular season NBA and after a tough start — three fouls in three minutes — settle down to give the Raptors 13 minutes of backup centre play to keep Valanciuans from over-extending himself in the first game of the season.
The Raptors now have a day to get ready for the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, who pay the ACC a visit on Friday.