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Five Thoughts on Last Night: Raptors 121, Pistons 119 (OT)

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In what was unexpectedly one of the most exciting games of the season, DeMar DeRozan led the Toronto Raptors to a thrilling comeback overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

DeMar DeRozan dunked all over the Detroit Pistons’ playoff chances last night, as he and Kyle Lowry threw a sluggish Toronto Raptors team on their backs and carried them to victory in the second half and overtime. Here are five barely coherent thoughts on one hell of a game.

You Know Where This One is Starting

I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor.

I’m getting “DeMar. Dominant. Dynamite. Detonates! On Detroit” tattooed on my right forearm.

Sometimes, You Gotta Let the Stars Go to Work

In a somewhat concerning note, the Raptors’ bench unit has now played 2.5 games of pretty uninspired basketball over the past three. They let the Pistons build a double-digit second quarter lead last night, forcing Dwane Casey to bring his starters back early on the second night of a back-to-back.

It took the starters the rest of the first half to get their legs under them, but in the third, they came out blazing. A 13-4 run kicked it off, including 3-pointers from Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam (starting the second half for Serge Ibaka) and a sensational DeRozan dish to Norman Powell for a dunk (Norm!). It took another five minutes for the Raps to come all the way back, but by the time Lowry and Siakam subbed out with 2 minutes to go in the quarter, the Raptors were up 7.

Lowry and DeRozan played 41 and 43 minutes respectively, the first time they’d both hit 40+ in the same game since January 1 against the Bucks.

That’s one of the biggest boons of the Raptors culture reset (and the fact that they’ve been blowing teams out)—their stars are well rested and in much better shape as the season winds down than they have been in the past, which means, when things get tight and they’re needed—like on a road back-to-back—they’re fresh enough for an extended run of sustained, excellent play.

Such was the case last night, as Lowry finished with 15 points on 8 shots, 15 assists and 7 boards, and DeRozan had 42 on 28 shots, 6 assists and 4 boards.

Hey, Remember when Serge Ibaka got Ejected?

Lost in all the excitement of the comeback, the exciting fourth quarter, the dunk and the OT, it’s easy to forget that the Raptors lost Serge Ibaka halfway thought the second quarter last night.

Ibaka was called for a foul on Blake Griffin (the officials were very generous to Blake last night) and said something to official Gediminas Petraitis as he walked by, and was immediately tossed. No warning, no first T then another, just straight tossed.

That was weird.

It didn’t hurt the Raptors; Ibaka was a dismal 2-of-8 (0-of-4 from 3-point range) and Griffin was eating him up. (Second night of back-to-back Serge remains bad.) But still, that must’ve been some pretty harsh language to get that kind of reaction from a referee.

Don’t Bet Against Fred VanVleet

Fred was having an off night, part of a subpar stretch for him. He was 1-of-9 (which brought him to 7-of-33, and 3-of-18 from downtown, and averaging two turnovers a game over the past four).

But DeRozan showed faith in him—the same faith VanVleet has shown in himself since day 1—finding him in the corner as time wound down in the overtime period. VanVleet didn’t hesitate and faith was rewarded.

Hopefully that shot will be the perfect thing to help break VanVleet’s slump.

What a Week for DeMar DeRozan

The young man from Compton has been on quite a run. Last week he led the team to a 4-0 record, opened up about depression, inspired his peers like Kelly Oubre Jr. and Kevin Love to talk about their mental health, was named player of the week, had his best game in a week and a half on Monday against Atlanta to make it 5 wins in a row.

And then absolutely eviscerated the Pistons to make it six in a row and ensured the Raptors became the first team this season to clinch a playoff spot.

I mean, the dude was 6-of-8 for 15 in the fourth quarter, had the highlight of highlights above, added another 3-point play in OT and, of course—like we all expected—had the game winning assist.

Was there a little too much iso-ball, a few too many midrange Js? Yep. But when your best player is hot, you keep going back to that well until it runs dry.

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There’s so much more to say about this game. Norman Powell had his best game in forever. Blake Griffin was sensational. The refs were atrocious. Jonas Valanciunas was great. Ish Smith, Reggie Bullock, Luke Kennard and Anthony Tolliver were lights-out (9-15 from behind the arc). Malcolm Miller had a dunk! Andre Drummond had 21 rebounds!

It was a great game, supremely fun to watch, with the best players on each team playing like the stars they are. You gotta love it.