Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan isn’t at all playing up to the caliber that we’d expect from a 2-time All-Star. In the two games against the Indiana Pacers in the first round, the Compton native has averaged a dismal 12.0ppg 3.0reb 3.0ast on 27% shooting.
Heading into the post-season the Raps were on the heels of yet another record-breaking season. The Raptors were healthy, playing defence and were slotted to play the 7th seed in the conference. Things were looking up for the Raptors and their fans trying to get into that ever so elusive second round.
With how the last two playoffs have gone for the Raptors you’d expect DeRozan to come out firing on all cylinders; but that’s been far from the case in these first two games. The biggest shock probably came when the dust settled after game 1 with a Raptors’ home loss in their playoff opener.
” I feel like it’s nothing to be frustrated about…I really do. I don’t mind having bad shooting nights; you gotta be able to take the good with the bad.” – DeRozan
DeRozan and running mate Kyle Lowry combined to go 8-for-32 reminding everyone of how the Raptors fell apart last year against the Wizards after their game 1 loss. Yet, with all the failure the Raptors have amassed in their playoff history there was still reason to have hope for this series against Indiana. With how bad the Lowry and DeRozan shot in Game 1, there was absolutely no way they could repeat such a futile performance. Especially when they’ve been around for so much of this playoff heartbreak.
In Game 2 we saw a different Toronto Raptors team. They had a strong start establishing themselves early, Jonas Valanciunas was dominant yet again, Lowry didn’t shoot well, but had a complete game (18 pts, 9 ast, 7 reb) and the bench provided 45 points for the Raptors.
As for DeRozan – he went 5 for 18 in Game 2 and looked understandably frustrated with his game as he wasn’t able to get to the free throw line. Then to top it off he was benched for the 4th quarter in favour of rookie Norman Powell.
In the games played against Indiana during the regular season DeMar averaged 24.3 ppg, 5.0 reb, and 3.7 ast, but we haven’t even seen a fraction of that player in this series. DeMar has shot 10-for-47 and is struggling mightily against the Pacers on both ends of the floor.
However, those regular season numbers don’t reflect that he’s been actually struggled against the Pacers all season long. Indiana is one of 5 teams in the NBA that was able to hold DeRozan to under 40% shooting over the regular season. The other four teams on that list are the Magic, Thunder, Cavaliers and the Warriors.
“I had a great season..the season is over with. I just had two rough shooting nights. I don’t think it’s the end of the world – we still won.” – DeRozan
DeMar isn’t struggling just because he’s taking bad shots, he’s struggling because Indiana brings an elite defence to the table and he’s yet to figure them out. Paul George is no slouch either. He brings athleticism, length and even more so – a commitment on the defensive end of the floor. He’s an All-NBA player, and many have apparently forgotten the epic series’ George had defensively against the Heat where he guarded LeBron James one-on-one. Not only that, but DeMar is getting lit up by George on the other end of the floor which probably isn’t helping his confidence or energy levels.
His 4th quarter benching by Dwane Casey might’ve been exactly what DeRozan needed to get his game back on track. Hopefully DeRozan realized that the team is able to win without him having to shoulder the offensive load himself. I’m not saying that the team is better without him because he attracts a lot of attention from the opposition allowing his teammates to get better opportunities. Though, what I am saying is a reversion to the iso-heavy style of play from last season is not the key to Raptors’ success.
With DeRozan’s views from the bench, the Raptors star was able to take a step back from being in the moment and simply watch the game. Not only that, he was able to watch his team play winning basketball in an incredibly intense atmosphere. Usually DeRozan is the one out there trying to win games for the team, but his play clearly dictated his position in Game 2.
DeRozan is a smart player, but sometimes gets caught up in the moment. Nevertheless, we’ve seen DeRozan adapt to his surroundings – albeit not quite yet in the playoffs. In the 13 post-season games the DeMar’s played in, he’s only shot better than 50% from the field once, so don’t expect his field goal percentage to suddenly skyrocket.
“That’s the beauty of the game…everyday not always going to go your way, but the best part about it is when you can make that adjustment next go around and understand you can still be effective…” – DeRozan
Game 3 is apparently when DeMar seems to figure things out. Every game three for DeRozan in his post-season career has been on the road and he’s produced. In those two games he’s averaged 31 ppg,5.5 reb, and 5.5 ast. DeRozan is a gamer, and he’ll be ready to compete when the Raptors head to Indiana for Game 3.
So what’s wrong with DeMar DeRozan?
To be honest, it doesn’t really matter, because the Raptors are in a position to redeem themselves after winning Game 2. Had the Raptors had lost due to the failed heroics of DeRozan this article may have had a completely different tone. The thing is – the Raptors won.
Good thing that this is a completely different Raptors team than in years past. The team has shown that they can rely on more than just Lowry and DeRozan. Their fortitude and defensive pedigree are miles in front of the team that got swept by the Wizards, or the team that lost in Game 7 to the Nets.
DeRozan may have sucked in games 1 & 2 but as we all know, things happen. James Harden and Kevin Durant have struggled mightily – nobody is doubting their ability to get back on track. So everyone running at DeRozan with their torches and pitchforks need to just calm down. Ultimately, DeRozan more than anyone understands that he needs to get going; but if it comes by sacrificing the greater goal of winning the series he may just need to see some more time on the bench.
“Once I get going, once the shot starts falling…its gonna be a scary sight for whoever we’re playing honestly.” – DeRozan