After missing 21 games, DeMar DeRozan returned to the lineup tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers. In the first seven minutes of the game, DeRozan hit a couple jumpers and made a beautiful drive to the basket and went to the bench with six points, a rebound, an assist and a steal.
The Raptors jumped out to a double digit lead early, and while the Sixers lingered for most of the game, Toronto put the game away in the fourth quarter for a 100-84 win. DeRozan finished with 20 points, four rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes of play. He shot 9-for-14 from the field and went 2-for-4 from the free throw line. Lou Williams led all bench scorers with 19 points, Kyle Lowry finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, 12 assists and three steals.
It was nice to see DeRozan's return, and you could instantly see the pressure it takes off Lowry. There's a better balance on offense with DeRozan back in the lineup, and with Jonas Valanciunas now starting to assert himself in the low post, you can envision this Raptors team being more efficient on the offensive end moving forward.
The plus/ minus numbers, albeit in a one game sample size and against the Sixers, were positive for DeRozan as well:
Raptors win by 16. With DeRozan on the floor: +18 in 28 minutes. With DeRozan on the bench: -2 in 20 minutes.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) January 15, 2015
Afterwards, Dwane Casey was asked whether DeRozan's return brought some calmness to the team, to which he replied, "you think?"
At the end of the game, the only drama was whether the Raptors would hit 100 points and fans would get their free slice of Pizza Pizza. It appeared the Raptors would end up stuck at 98 points, but the Sixers inexplicably committed an intentional foul on Lowry with under 20 seconds left. Lowry promptly hit both free throws and the fans cheered, because we always cheer for pizza. Pizza Pizza was trolling on Twitter afterwards:
A decent win for the Raptors. Now, onto Friday against the Atlanta Hawks, which will be quite a test, especially since the Raptors have been up and down so far in the new year.
What did everybody think?