Published On: Wed, Apr 18th, 2018

DeRozan's offensive evolution on full display in 2 wins vs. Wizards

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TORONTO – For as much ink has been spilled this season about the Toronto Raptors‘ culture reset and offensive transformation, no singular player has embodied that reinvention quite like DeMar DeRozan.

DeRozan made a name for himself as an isolation threat and midrange maestro who defied the modern game by becoming an All-Star shooting guard while operating inside the 3-point line. But it’s DeRozan’s buy-in to the team’s new system that allowed the Raptors to perfect the more utilitarian, 3-point heavy offense that’s been unleashed on the Washington Wizards, propelling Toronto to its first 2-0 series lead in franchise history.

DeRozan’s still capable of single-handedly driving the stake through an opposing defense, as he did down the stretch of Game 2 against the Wizards. He’s just able to do it in different ways now.

“Tonight, when he’s making threes, he’s very tough to guard,” Wizards point guard John Wall told theScore after his team’s Game 2 loss, in which DeRozan scored 37 points on 14-of-23 shooting. “Last game he wasn’t too aggressive. This game he came out very aggressive and we let him get comfortable.”


To Wall’s point, DeRozan spent most of Game 1 probing the Wizards’ defense and opening up opportunities for his teammates, scoring just 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting while dishing out six assists. He then used what he gleaned while surveying Washington’s Game 1 schemes to do the damage himself in Game 2.

“I made a lot of great reads in Game 1, passing the ball, understanding where we can get easy shots, and understood that Game 2 was going to be different,” DeRozan told reporters in his postgame news conference. “We’re all trying to put that mark on the game and come out more aggressive. That could’ve led to me passing the ball more, but tonight it led to me scoring the ball more.”

When DeRozan checked into the fourth quarter with just under eight minutes remaining Tuesday night, what was once a 23-point Raptors lead had been sliced to seven, and an Air Canada Centre crowd scarred from too many traumatic postseason memories to list was getting antsy.

DeRozan then proceeded to outscore the Wizards by himself over the next 5:48 of game time, fuelling a 19-6 Raptors run in the only fourth-quarter minutes required of him with 10 points of his own.

“We needed every point,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said afterwards, before describing how DeRozan has grown as the No. 1 option of Toronto’s offense.

“He showed offensive toughness. They were into him. They were doing a lot of switching, he attacked their feet. We figured that’s what they were probably gonna do, and he did a good job of attacking it – attacking the blitzes early in the game and then just his all-around reading (of Washington’s defense). That’s just his maturity. He’s grown a lot from that standpoint. Two years ago, I don’t know what he would’ve done. He did an excellent job of reading what the defense was doing to him, and making them pay.”

Wizards coach Scott Brooks had less to say, seemingly at a loss for words for what to do about DeRozan.

“That’s a great player making plays,” Brooks told theScore, before he pondered his thoughts, and perhaps his team’s survival, over a multi-second pause. “He’s an All-Star for a reason.”

Through two games so far in what looks like a potentially promising playoff run, DeRozan has scored 54 points on 49 individual possessions (worth more than 1.1 points per possession), his 10 assists have resulted in 26 points – thanks to the fact six of those assists have led to 3-pointers for his teammates – he’s turned the ball over only four times, and he’s connected on five of 11 3-point attempts (good for 45 percent).

DeRozan in Playoffs 3PArate 3P% eFG% AST%
2014-17 8.7 20.9 41.2 16.9
2 games in 2018 27.5 45.5 56.3 20.4

Between DeRozan’s more well-rounded scoring and the playmaking abilities he had already been developing over the last couple years, you can see the game slowing down for the four-time All-Star when the ball’s in his hands, as he rarely bends to a defense’s will anymore.

“Yeah, I’m like Neo now,” DeRozan cackled following Game 2, referencing the bullet-dodging protagonist of “The Matrix.”

That’s a scary thought for Brooks and his Wizards, who now need DeRozan’s Raptors to do something they haven’t done all year – lose four of five.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)



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