BROOKLYN — He would never come right out and say it because he loathes controversy and creating drama, but DeMar DeRozan feels slighted at not making a repeat trip to the all-star game. He gets that he has missed nearly half of the season, but is confident in his abilities that his game remains all-star caliber. More importantly, he feels that the best start in Raptors history should count for something where all-star picks are concerned.
“I think you should reward winning, must come first,” DeRozan said before he went out and played like a star, propelling the Raptors past the Nets on Friday night in Brooklyn. “Just like you did with Atlanta. All them guys that’s on it deserve to be on it and you could make the argument of four (Kyle Korver might yet be added, joining Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague). Look at back in the day when Detroit had four players (at the all-star game). Because they were winning. You’ve got to reward winning, first and foremost,” he said.
- Earlier in the day, DeRozan had said about as tersely as he ever gets (which isn’t very) “I ain’t got no comment (on being snubbed).” Afterward, he smiled, then again declined to take the bait. “Everyday is extra motivation, honestly,” DeRozan said.
- That might have been DeRozan’s best overall outing of the season. Earlier in the game, he passed it around as well as he ever has, constantly setting up his teammates for good shots. After the Nets fought back, he put the Raptors on his back, both by hitting a series of incredibly difficult shots and also by making great finds when the Nets swarmed him – most notably, the dish to a cutting Amir Johnson that forced overtime. He also had to guard Joe Johnson, who killed the Raptors in the playoffs, and did a decent job on him.
“I know I can draw a lot of attention, especially when I’m in the paint. I just feel three or four collapsing on me and I know where my guys are going to be at, from the three-point shooters to our bigs,” he said.
- Despite the win, the Raptors did a lot of things wrong. They continue to get lit up by opposing point guards far too often. For all of his offensive brilliance, and he’s one of the best offensive players in the entire league by any metric, Kyle Lowry has taken a noticeable step back defensively. Yes, playing two point guards at the same time (and the fact that one of them is Greivis Vasquez, who is a poor defender) doesn’t help either, but Lowry has to be better. It’s one thing to let players like Stephen Curry, Jeff Teague or Damian Lillard go off, quite another when it is D.J. Augustin or Jarrett Jack.
- They also let Brook Lopez absolutely carve them up repeatedly inside. The Nets had no answers for Toronto’s bigs either (Jonas Valancunas and Amir Johnson were dominant offensively and Patrick Patterson made some big plays as well), but I had not problem taking Valanciunas out late. He was getting torched and they don’t give him the ball anyway late in games, so that negates a lot of what he brings to the table. They could have used his rebounding, but Patterson has emerged as an elite offensive rebounder and hauled in some crucial ones while there is simply no case to remove Amir Johnson, who along with DeRozan won the Raptors that game. On other nights, sure, Valanciunas should be out there. It made sense to have him on the bench. And while we are talking about the coaching staff, thought they did an excellent job. The after timeout plays were exceptional, most notably the DeRozan to Johnson connection.
- It is impossible not to be impressed by the dedicated Raptors fans who follow the team on the road. They were louder than all of the Nets fans combined at many points on Friday, just like they were at Madison Square Garden earlier in the season. Asked Amir if he heard them: “Oh yeah, we sure did,” he said. They even take over the local bars post-game.