DeMar DeRozan Stays on a Roll with 34 Points, Lifting Toronto Raptors Past Miami Heat 96-87
TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors know what they are going to get on a nightly basis from DeMar DeRozan, but with much of the team’s other attackers firing blanks, Terrence Ross stepped to the fore in a 96-87 win over the visiting Miami Heat on Friday night.
The Raptors improved to 4-1 thanks to an impressive night’s work from Ross, the usual from DeRozan (34) — who led the NBA in scoring heading in, becoming the only Raptor to accomplish that feat other than Vince Carter in the 2003 season opener.
Ross scored 20 points (the rest of the bench managed 16), DeRozan became the first player since Michael Jordan to start a season with five 30-plus point efforts in a row and Kyle Lowry did all the dirty work as the Heat dropped to 2-3.
Averaging 36.3 points, DeRozan had snatched the scoring lead away from Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook late Thursday night when Westbrook only managed 20 points.
A night later, DeRozan started slowly, turning the ball over three or four times in the first quarter alone as Miami took an early lead before erupting for 14 points in the third quarter, but Toronto clung only to a three-point lead because two-time Raptor James Johnson scored nine of his own in the third.
In the fourth, Lowry showcased his value and how it doesn’t just revolve around whether his jumper is falling or not. Lowry had eight rebounds (behind only 7-footer Jonas Valanciunas), three steals, three blocks (again, he is only six feet tall), five assists and a massive charge taken late in the fourth against Miami’s behemoth, Hassan Whiteside, who had dominated with 21 points, 16 rebounds and too many altered shots to count. That gave Whiteside five fouls and put the Heat in a big hole the team could not escape. Not with DeRozan shooting over 50 per cent again, including a late dagger, which was followed by a fine dish to Valanciunas for the centre’s only field goal of the night. DeRozan had eight points in the fourth to nearly get to his scoring average.
DeRozan had eight points in the fourth, to nearly get to his scoring average and to put himself into company with the best to ever lace them up, which left him a bit stunned.
“Yeah, I heard. I don’t believe it,” DeRozan said, shaking his head.
“It’s tough. It’s not easy. Everything that goes into it. It’s not just what you do on the court, it’s how you take care of yourself physically, mentally, everything. There are things off the court that people don’t get a chance to see that are just as important.”
Toronto also held yet another opponent under 40 per cent shooting from the field.
“We got stops and did what we were supposed to do,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “We did a much better job of handling the pick and roll defence.”
But once again, DeRozan stole the show – with help from Ross.
“I’m playing my game and within the offence and having fun,” Ross said, adding that DeRozan “always plays this way in practice, he has just carried it over to the games now.”
On Friday morning, DeRozan claimed that he isn’t doing anything different and isn’t paying any extra attention to this run.
“Hah. I promise you I don’t even think about it,” DeRozan said after the morning shootaround.
“I just try to go out there and win and do whatever it takes to win. I live with the results at the end of the day knowing that I tried.”
Trying is working pretty well for him. In addition to hitting 58 per cent of his attempts at the rim, DeRozan has made 19-of-32 long two-point attempts. He’s also getting the ball a ton. Last year, DeRozan was utilized on about 30 per cent of Toronto’s plays. This year, that number has risen to 38.3 per cent.
Friday brought the return of Johnson, who DeRozan credited for some of his success because of the tough defence he played on him every day in practice.
A certain off-season slight sent his way by Sports Illustrated in the off-season gave him a jolt as well.
“That did a lot. It’s just motivating,” DeRozan said after Valanciunas brought up the ranking, busting into his scrum shouting, “You are still just 46th, man.”
That cracked everybody up, including DeRozan, as did the subsequent: “No. 1 in our hearts.”
“I thrive off challenges, that’s just how I was raised, that’s the environment I grew up in,” DeRozan said. “You show me something, I’m going to be rebellious and go against your opinion.”
He has certainly done that so far.
Earlier in the day, DeRozan joked about needing to visit a gas station after his previous game, which saw him launch 23 shots for the second night in a row. So is he getting tired, does he need a fill-up?
“No. I’m like a Tesla,” he said with a smile as he left the interview room.
Like Drake said, he’s charged up.
And shifted into a gear few before him have ever reached.
In fact, DeRozan hinted at another achievement not seen since the height of Vinsanity: A major shoe release for a player signed to a Canadian team.
When asked by Postmedia if his own shoe was coming soon, Heir Canada responded with a sly, “We’ll see.”