What a way to start the new year.
On the back of DeMar DeRozan’s new franchise-record 52 points (pour one out for Terry and Vince), the Toronto Raptors came out on top in a playoff-like atmosphere against the Milwaukee Bucks, winning 131-127 in overtime.
It wasn’t just the victory itself that should have Raptors fans feeling like they’re tingling with the child-like wonder of the new year, but some specific key ingredients to the victory. Let’s go on a six-part tingle tour.
1. DeRozan was red-hot from the jump, scoring 20 points in the first quarter. He also made four three pointers in the quarter and didn’t hesitate to shoot the long-ball, finishing 5-9 from deep. Tingle.
2. Kyle Lowry was his best self, picking his spots on offense, playing his usual water-bug defense, nailing five triples of his own, dishing out six assists and finishing with 26 points. (Old Familiar) Tingle.
3. OG Anunoby played 35 minutes, didn’t attempt a field goal, harassed Giannis Antetokounmpo all night long and finished a team high plus sixteen, because he is a bastion of team basketball and worthy of all your adulation.
4. With exactly four minutes left in the fourth quarter, DeRozan took a 2014 DeRozan shot. It was a deep contested two, with Antetokounmpo right in his face. It went in. This might seem like a good thing, but if you check out my game preview, you’ll see that I was hoping this game would provide a chance for the Raptors to eschew the iso-ball tactics that had re-appeared at several key junctures early on in this season, and embrace their new identity fully.
While DeRozan had a scorching hand tonight and his teammates were certainly feeding him the ball at every opportunity, when he was doubled, he fought through and made the right pass, more often than not. He led the team with eight assists tonight, and while the shot they got at the end of regulation was less than ideal, his play in overtime more than made up for it. Of his 52 points, 15 came from threes, 14 came in the paint, 13 on free throws and 10 in the mid-range. Morey-ball-ish tingle.
5. It was the night of the chase-down block! Serge Ibaka had a pair (four total blocks on the night), Delon Wright had a monster recovery on Khris Middleton and even DeRozan got in on the action, swatting Middleton’s jumpshot mid-way through the contest. Tayshaun and LeBron tingle.
6. Another part of my game preview was to force the Bucks to shoot it from deep, as they’ve been one of the leagues worst teams in that faction of the game so far this season. The Raptors were certainly on the same page, and it worked to a certain extent — Antetokounmpo, who leads the league with 17.8 points in the paint per game this season, scored just 12, even with the extra quarter tacked on. The problem was Eric Bledsoe decided he was Steve Nash and nailed 5-7 from deep, despite being a 30% shooter on the season. The Bucks managed to hit 13-27 as a team, or 48.7%, by far their best mark of the season. Semi-tingle here! It was a good game plan that would have treated the Raptors better on most nights.
A Weird Fact to Finish
DeRozan and Thon Maker made eight combined three-pointers tonight. They combined for three total in last years six game playoff series.
You can’t make this stuff up.