DeMar DeRozan, the Toronto Raptors starting shooting guard, has had a shaky third NBA season. After finishing his sophomore season on a tear—he averaged 20 points a game after the All-Star break last season and 23.7 in April—expectations for DeRozan were through the roof. He was expected to build upon his fantastic finish, take his game to the next level and perhaps join the list of budding stars in the NBA. Twenty points a game was what many Raptor fans hoped of DeRozan.
However, things haven't gone according to play for the Compton, California native. Dwane Casey, the Raptors' new head coach, brought a much more defensive-oriented system to Toronto. He slowed the game down, which limited transition opportunities for DeRozan. He preached defense, and if you didn't meet his standards on the defensive end, you would find yourself sitting on the bench until you did.
Of course, the lockout didn't help either.
DeRozan struggled to adjust to this new system. He averaged just 14 points on a putrid 36.7 field-goal percentage in the month of January. These numbers were the worst of any month since his rookie season. Entering the All-Star break, he found himself averaging 15.7 points on 41 percent shooting.
However, much like last season, DeRozan has improved his play in the second half of the year. In the Raptors' 16 games since the All-Star break, he has averaged 18.1 points on 43 percent shooting. This includes a season-high 30 points on March 23 in a win against the New York Knicks.
Despite that, DeRozan's most impressive performance came in tonight's game against arguably the best team in the league, the Miami Heat.
DeRozan scored 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting and 10-of-10 from the free throw line. Here is a recap of his baskets:
- 9:13: He curled off an Aaron Gray screen and received a pass from Jose Calderon just above the free-throw line with Chris Bosh covering him on a switch. He immediately caught the ball and exploded to his right, drawing a foul on Bosh. He would go 2-of-2 from the free-throw line.
- 7:14: He received a pass from Linas Kleiza, took one dribble and stuck a pull-up jumper over Mario Chalmers.
- 4:41: He came off a double screen from Amir Johnson and Ed Davis, drove to his right. Euro stepped by Bosh and finished with his left hand at the rim.
- 3:09: Johnson stripped the ball from LeBron James, outlet the ball to DeRozan, who then drove to the hoop, where he was fouled by Norris Cole, just missing an And-1. He would convert both free throws.
- 1:53: Received a pass from Calderon outside the three-point line on the right elbow, took one hard dribble to his left and drained a pull-up jumper over Terrel Harris.
Total points in first quarter: 10
- 6:23: Alan Anderson stole a pass from James, pushed the ball up the floor and fed DeRozan, who then hit a reverse layup.
- 3:07: Had the ball behind the three-point line left foul line extended with two Mario Chalmers guarding him and Shane Battier shading. Passed to Davis, immediately received a hand-off from Davis, drove to his right and went into Ronny Turiaf's body, drawing the foul. Made both free throws.
Total points in second quarter: Four
- 8:56: Had the ball on the right side of the floor above the three-point line, swung it to Andrea Bargnani, who then passed to Calderon, Calderon took three dribbles to his right while DeRozan faded to the corner. Calderon passed to him, and he buried the 18-foot jumper.
- 5:36: Had the ball at the top, passed to Calderon, got shot-ready, received a return pass from Calderon and immediately rose up for an in-rhythm 20-footer.
- 3:53: Ran into the paint, faked a screen on Battier, cut back to the free-throw line, received a pass from Calderon, dove to the basket and drew a foul on Joel Anthony. 2-of-2 from the line.
- 3:29: Stole a Chalmers pass, outlet to Calderon, trailed the play, received a pass from Bargnani just outside the arc, a hesitation dribble on Harris, protected from a Chalmers swipe and laid it in high off the glass with his right hand.
Total points in third quarter: Eight
- 4:41: Had the ball 30 feet out with Battier on him, he faked using a Bargnani screen with an inside out dribble, went behind his back, pump faked to get Battier in the air and drew the foul. Made both free throws
- 2:02: Received the ball outside the left three-point elbow, used a Bargnani screen, avoided the hedging James, went to the middle, drove to his right and hit a running hook over Battier near the right baseline.
- 0:52: Had the ball straight away, exploded to his right by James, cradled the ball and hit a layup off glass with his right hand.
Total points in fourth quarter: Six
DeRozan is at his most effective when he is utilizing screens, moving without the ball, being decisive on the catch and attacking the rim. He gets in trouble offensively when he is standing around watching the play or when he tries to do too much with his dribble.
In tonight's game, he was doing much more of the former than the latter, and it resulted in the most impressive scoring game of the season for him.
Now, by no means was DeRozan flawless tonight. He struggled to contain Dwyane Wade defensively and only had one rebound and two assists, but his offensive game tonight was a great example of why he has begun to break out of the slump he was in during the first half of the season. It is also a great indication of what he will need to continue to do heading forward if he wants to finish off the season strong.
If he can do it against the elite Miami defense, why can't he do it on a consistent basis? Raptor fans are hoping that they see just that from DeRozan to finish out the season and remind them why they were so high on him heading into the year.