DeMar DeRozan sinks 40 points in Raptors home-opening win over Pistons
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 opened the regular season with a 109-91 win over the Detroit Pistons.
DeRozan, who signed a max-deal, five-year, $139-million contract this past off season not even listening to another pitch from other markets, was locked in from the get-go hitting 17 of his 27 attempts and all six of his shots from the free throw line in a 40-point scoring bonanza.
It is the single largest output by a member of the Raptors on opening night breaking the old mark set by Vince Carter himself in 2003 when he had 39 against the then New Jersey Nets.
“We get criticized for not passing the ball but when you have a great one-on-one player you take what the game gives you,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said.
And DeRozan was not shy nor should he have been, not with both Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph struggling to find their own shot.
“I thought the efficiency of DeMar and Jonas kind of evened out everything,” Casey said. “I thought Cory had a tough night getting off the ball, getting off the dribble, getting his shoulders around (Beno) Udrih and Kyle had a tough night shooting the basketball. When we can win like that with our two main hubs struggling a little bit, we’ll take it.”
Valanciunas quickly put to rest any concerns about his somewhat quiet pre-season and a tough summer with the Lithuanian national team at the Olympics.
Three minutes into the game, Valanciunas 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 Drummond with his right elbow connecting solidly with Drummond’s jaw.
The Pistons big man went down and did not return until late in the second quarter. Valanciunas went in for an uncontested dunk on the play and didn’t really slow down again the rest of the night.
He finished with a career high 32 points and 11 rebounds, six of them off the offensive boards.
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 the way to his monster night.
Midway through the second quarter with Drummond still feeling that elbow on the bench, Valanciunas 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 Pistons had an early seven-point lead in the first but never really threatened the Raptors all night although they kept it close enough to keep things interesting. Forwards Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris at least kept the Pistons within range, Harris going off for 22 and Morris chipping in with 17.
Ish Smith, starting for the injured Reggie Jackson, had 16.
Despite a tough scoring night Lowry, 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 they were just 2-for-14 from beyond the arc with Lowry and Carroll each hitting one.
DeRozan’s career high coming in was 42 and he had a great shot at bettering that Wednesday night coming in with about six minutes remaining in the game following his 40-point effort through three quarters.
DeRozan though did not score again and settled for 40, just the third Raptor in team history to score 30 or more on opening night. The other two were Carter and Alvin Robertson's 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.
As he has been saying all week since it appeared he might have a chance to start, 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 and got some healthy props from his head coach.
Fellow rookie Jakob Poeltl also got his first taste of regular season NBA and after a tough start -- three fouls in three minutes -- settled down to give the Raptors 13 minutes of back-up centre play to keep Valanciunas 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.
DERO ALSO TOUGH ON D
On a night he came within two points of better his career best of 42 points, DeMar DeRozan’s head coach wanted to point out his defence.
That’s not news to anyone who has spent any time around Dwane Casey, but it speaks to Casey’s confidence in his starting shooting guards offensive game that he would even mention his defence on a night he went off for 40.
It turns out DeRozan asked to be switched onto Tobias Harris when the Pistons forward got it going a little in the third quarter and promptly shut him down.
“We switched TRoss off (Harris) and put DeMar on him and that was a good stretch defensively for him,” Casey said. “He told on himself. I told him this summer, he told on himself with the U.S. team. ‘Why can you go play for Mike Krzyzewski and play defence and you come here and we have to hide you?’ Casey wanted to know.
“I tell you what - when he makes a muscle he can get out and guard and defend. That’s the growth of DeMar DeRozan. Him saying ‘let me guard that guy’ and take on that challenge.”