By Frank McLean
The Toronto Raptors won game five of their series with the Miami Heat Wednesday night the old fashioned Raptors way, DeMar DeRozan was shooting the basketball and it was going in the hoop.
It sounds simplistic, but when DeRozan and his partner in crime at the guard position Kyle Lowry combine to score 40 or more points in game, the Raptors usually win. It’s one of the few givens in life like death and taxes.
However, the duo has struggled this postseason. Lowry has been in the worst shooting slump of his career and DeRozan has as well, but in Game Five against the Heat, DeRozan was 11-22 from the field and a perfect 11-11 from the foul line for his playoff best game of 34 points. Lowry attempted 25 shots from the field, made nine, but was 4-9 from behind the three point line and chipped in with a solid 25 points. Added together, they combined for 59 of the Raptors 99 points on the night.
Lowry had his best game of the playoffs in this series back on Saturday in Game Three with a 33 point performance, but he and DeRozan have not been completely in sync in the same playoff game for the whole postseason. That is something the Raptors and their fans have been waiting for.
“We can disparage them all we want and talk about how bad their shooting is, but you don’t forget how to score the basketball,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said after the game. “It’s going to come back. When? You hope it’s within this series, but it’s going to come back. We have faith in those guys. They carried us the entire season and not one-time did we doubt their ability to score the basketball.
“And now they have to ramp it up again for the next game.”
DeRozan has taken a beating in the press and on social media over his lack of performance in the playoffs. He can opt out of his contract at the end of the season and go for a max deal in the neighborhood of $20-25-million per season. One Toronto sports writer actually said on Wednesday that if the Raptors did sign DeRozan to a max deal that person should be fired.
DeRozan’s performance in Game Five was a gigantic “stick it” to his detractors.
The fact is he played the game hurt, the thumb on his shooting hand is hurting and hurting bad. He played through the pain. Many stars have sat out with less pain and just shut it down.
In the fourth quarter DeRozan re-injured his thumb and made a bee line to the locker room. He was followed by the Raptors Director of Sports Science Alex McKechnie. The cagey Scotsman did his best MacGyver imitation by using a shoelace on DeRozan’s thumb and he came back and finished the game.
“Thousand dollar shoelaces” is what DeRozan called the device.
When asked, what does the thumb hurt like? DeRozan said, “it hurt likes a blow torch.”
That’s pretty graphic.
Plain and simple the Raptors don’t win without DeRozan sucking it up and playing. He played like the legendary war horses of the old days in the NBA.
That’s why the Raptors head to Miami up three games to two instead of being down three games to two.
They need DeRozan and Lowry to keep up doing what they did Wednesday night if they want to advance to the Toronto Raptors first ever Conference Final.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.