No doubt the Toronto Raptors 104-98 victory over the Golden State Warriors was more important, but on Sunday, the Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan netted his third 30 point plus game in a row and his ninth 30 point plus performance going back to a career high 40 points in Dallas on January 22. During this stretch, DeRozan hasn’t shown any preference when filling the basket. He has split this run almost equally between Eastern and Western Conference opponents and he has been as effective against dominant defensive teams like the Bulls or offensive powerhouses like the Warriors and Clippers.
DeRozan has grown up in front of everyone’s eyes this season and these past 3 games were a Player of the Week worthy performance, but that honor is yet to be determined.
“(DeRozan) was efficient,” said Head Coach Dwane Casey after the game on Sunday. “I thought he did a good job. He had 6 assists which was big. They were double-teaming him trying to get the ball out of his hands and he did a good job of finding people. It is just another step in his growth.”
Shooting better than 62 percent from the field as a wing player is better than just efficient. Add in 11-12 from the free throw line and it adds up to an outstanding game, but it was only one of three outstanding games this past week. Over the past 3 games, DeRozan averaged 33 points, shot 51.6 percent from the field and averaged 13 free throw attempts, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 1.3 steals. The light has come on brightly for this 24-year-old wing player.
The game against Stephen Curry and the Warriors was huge for Toronto. The Raptors hadn’t beaten a Curry led team since the young point guard entered the league in 2009 and was drafted just 2 spots ahead of DeRozan. This was a team win for the home side, DeRozan came through with points all game long, but he didn’t do it alone.
Jonas Valanciunas started strong against Andrew Bogut, going 5-5 in the first half for 10 points while holding the more experienced center to only 2 points. Greivis Vasquez came in off the bench and provided an instant spark by scoring 10 of his 12 points in the second quarter. In the fourth quarter it was the energy and hot shooting of Patrick Patterson as he scored 8 of his 12 points – all of which came in the second half. However, as Casey is a defense-first coach, he saved his biggest praise for the defensive efforts of John Salmons and his bigs efforts on the Warriors screen plays.
“We knew they were going to be looking for the three-ball and I thought John Salmons did a man’s job as far as making one of the toughest three-point shooters in the league work to get open,” Casey said. “That was the key and our bigs did a good job of being up at the level and giving us some speed and quickness at the level of the screen.”
In a surprise move, Landry Fields got the start in place of the injured Terrence Ross and went 4-5 from the field for 8 points and 6 rebounds, but points were not what Casey was looking for from Ross’ replacement.
“Defensively I just knew what Landry brings to the table,” Casey said. “His 8 points was a big plus, but he had 6 rebounds. He helped us on the boards, but I thought his length did a good job of helping. He got switched off on Curry a couple of times and I thought his length helped us. I am a defensive guy and guys that are willing to play defense are going to have a big advantage over guys that are not defensive-minded.”
The Warriors are shooting 45.6 percent from the field this season and the Raptors held them to just 42 percent on Sunday. That is the kind of effort Casey is looking for.
Don’t be fooled into thinking Curry had a bad game, however. The Warriors All-Star led all scorers with 34 points on 13-27 from the field and scored his team’s final bucket, but he had 2 turnovers within 20 seconds near the end of the game as the Raptors tightened their defense and created 4 turnovers over the final 2:10 to claim the victory.
Lost in heartbreak of losing a winnable game on the road in the dying minutes was a 20 point 11 rebound performance by David Lee. Both Lee and Curry played the entire second half for the Warriors.
The Warriors continue their 6-game Eastern Conference road trip with a 2-2 record in Indiana on Tuesday.
The Raptors don’t play again until Friday against the Kings and the players will get a couple of days off to rest before then because of mandates in the CBA. Casey reminded everyone not to go into vacation mode if they want to beat Sacramento.
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Can Ross and DeRozan Become The Raptors McGrady and Carter?
The Toronto Raptors had a dream in the early days of this franchise. A dream that two young up and coming star wing players, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, would elevate this expansion franchise into relevance and dominance as a legitimate NBA contender for many years to come. Then the dream became a myth that the team has been looking to recreate ever since and maybe, just maybe they have in DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross.