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Fun and Good Highlight: Jonas Valanciunas honours DeRozan’s 52 points

It didn’t happen during a game, but JV’s reaction (and celebration) of his teammate’s historic night was something special.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

If there was an invigorating way for the Raptors to start 2018, defeating the Bucks with a career- and franchise-record setting night from DeMar DeRozan, is it. His 52 point explosion was the most ever scored by a Raptor in a single game (passing Vince Carter and Terrence Ross’ 51). And while the Terry Truthers are already out there mentioning DeRozan had an extra five minutes of overtime to do it, the fact that the Raptors’ long-time cornerstone now holds this distinction feels rather grand.

Now, I suppose for this week’s Fun and Good Highlight we could just run the video package for DeRozan’s performance — it contains all the beautiful drives, breathtaking jumpers, and confidently launched threes a person could ever want.

But we’re going to take it in a different direction instead, and celebrate a post-game moment of fantastic distinction. It’s a few seconds of footage that I hope will come to define this moment of historic import. And as with most of the best times in recent Raptors history, it involves some prop comedy from Jonas Valanciunas.

Let’s watch:

The obvious touchstone here for JV is Wilt Chamberlain’s near-mythical 100 point game, of which only one photo and a box score remains.

What’s funny about this Raptors clip then, beyond the surface juxtaposition of DeMar’s coolness with Valanciunas’ abject goofiness, is that it forces us to acknowledge — seeded deep within the latter — Jonas’ visual play with history. For an apparent lug of a guy, the Raptors’ indisputable largest adult son, and the squad’s chief lover of prop comedy, this gag somehow... has levels.

No one in the modern NBA will be able to recreate Wilt’s 100 point game. And thanks to the dearth of technology in the era, no one can comment concretely on what it was like to watch such dominance. It’s a thing that happened, but it’s also apocryphal.

Meanwhile, we have DeRozan’s final line of 52 points on 17-of-29 shooting, including 5-of-9 from three, plus eight assists, five rebounds, a steal, a block, and a perfect 13-of-13 from the free throw line. It’s a form we once thought would be unreachable by him, and yet here we are. We have that pile of footage, a million different ways to watch one of the finest (or the finest) performance by a Raptor in recent memory. When the history books are written on the Raptors in the NBA, DeRozan’s game against the Bucks on New Year’s Day 2018, will be an oft mentioned high point. Who knows, it may stand as the high-water mark for the franchise for years, decades, to come.

And somehow, in a brief 17 second clip, Valanciunas lumbers into the frame and manages to link these two games, these two moments in history between Wilt and DeMar, into one perfect fun and good highlight.