Somewhere in the midst of approximately one million free throws, there was a basketball game played between the Toronto Raptors and the Portland Trail Blazers. That the Raptors won 117-115 may have had something to do with DeMar DeRozan being one of the elite foul earners (drawers?) in the league. It's the least sexy NBA skill to have -- especially compared to Portland's Damian Lillard's insane shot making ability -- and yet when a player on the team you cheer for has that skill, it's appreciated.
On the game, DeRozan dropped 38 points while shooting a whopping 24-for-25 from the free throw line. It was an NBA record for most makes, and it would have been most makes without a miss had he hit the last one. (DeRozan blamed the final miss on Kyle Lowry's advice. "I'm blaming it on Kyle," said DeRozan afterwards.) DeMar's been on a tear for most of this season, and while his foul shooting has always been a big part of his game, this was a whole other level. Not even an accidental poke to the eye from Jonas Valanciunas in the third quarter could slow him down.
Not to be outdone, Lowry got in on the free throw action too, shooting 9-for-15 from the line, which helped pad out his 28 point tally and strong play calling down the stretch. Valanciunas had a quietly effective game with 17 points and 10 rebounds. And new starter Norman Powell also chipped in with ten points (and a pair of threes). Still, the story for much of the game was the fouls. By the end of the first half, Toronto and Portland had drawn 34 whistles and shot 46 free throws. For the game it was 65 fouls and 89 free throws (54 for Toronto). It did not make for a particularly exciting evening at times. Until the fourth quarter, that is, because of Lillard.
Outside perhaps only Steph Curry, Lillard is the most dangerous shot taker and maker in the league. And boy howdy did he try to liven things up against the Raptors. He hit a long (long) buzzer beater at the end of the first quarter to bring the Blazers within one, and did what he could from then on to keep the game close. The Raptors, riding the wave of free throws, kept pushing the lead up and away from the star point guard and his teammates (only C.J. McCollum's 24 points were of much help to Dame).
But as Lilliard's been doing all year, he got hot in the fourth. He'd top 40 points in the final frame with an insane combo of deep threes, and-1s, and other moves, and finish the game with 50. "That young man can score any which way he wants to," said coach Dwane Casey after the game. DeRozan summed it up even more succinctly: "Video game." Unfortunately, Lillard was in a shoot out with DeRozan and Lowry, and that made just enough of a difference for the Raptors win.
Through all this eventual excitement, tonight's game was also one for the history books. Here's a quick summary of the milestones for the game:
DeMar DeRozan passes career highs for free throws made and attempted. Shooting a perfect 20-for-20 through 3 quarters.— RaptorsMR (@RaptorsMR) March 5, 2016
Raps have now shot 50 FTSs, team record for a single game. Told you that you were seeing history. History!— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) March 5, 2016
DeMar DeRozan ties NBA record with 23 consecutive free throws made in a game. #Raptors set franchise record with 42 free throws made.— RaptorsMR (@RaptorsMR) March 5, 2016
The Raptors are now 41-19, and start their seven game home stand with two straight wins. The 2-seed is firmly locked up, but the Raptors remain two games back of the Cleveland Cavaliers for first. A season sweep of the Blazers is yet another milestone for Toronto as they look ahead to Sunday, the Houston Rockets, and the continuation of the franchise's best regular season ever.
What did you guys think of the game?