Three Takeaways From DeMar DeRozan’s Return to Toronto

(Photos by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photos by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors pulled out a nail-biting victory in DeMar DeRozan’s first return since the blockbuster trade nine months ago. They certainly weren’t perfect though, what did we learn from the win?

In the most anticipated game of the year, the most valuable player in the history of the Toronto Raptors returned to the city he grew up in.

It was a game that had been circled on every Raptors fan’s calendar since July, the return of DeMar DeRozan. A game where Raptor fans would get a chance to show their appreciation for a player who, not only led the franchise in a plethora of categories but who also who loved the city, wanted to be in the city and stay in it long term.

And the building was electric. Raptor fans gave several, lengthy standing ovations to show their love, from the first time he touched the ball, to the player introductions, to the EMOTIONAL video tribute. Don’t tell me it didn’t get to you.

The first quarter wasn’t pretty, the energy clearly getting to the players. Both teams swapped buckets and turnovers; the Raptors gave the ball up five times while the Spurs turned it over seven. The Raptors did capitalize on some good ball movement, hitting six of twelve from deep, including Lowry’s two from downtown. Marc Gasol had quite possibly his worst shift as a Raptor coming off the bench for Serge Ibaka.

The Raps started the second quarter off with a 7-0 run but their balloon was popped with a third personal foul call on Gasol early in the quarter and then a big Spurs run. The Spurs turned up the heat on Kawhi Leonard, doubling him repeatedly throughout the first half, frustrating the All-Star. By the end of the first half, the Raptors were only 17-51 from the field (33-percent). If it were not for a barrage of made threes from  Danny Green (4-6), Pascal Siakam (2-2) and Kyle Lowry (3-6), the Raptors would have been down by more than one at the half.

Foul trouble and poor calls were rampant in the third quarter. Both teams were at the receiving end of some poor officiating causing tempers to flare and technical fouls to be dished out like they were candy on Halloween. Nick Nurse was ejected with 3:33 left in the third after having his second tech called against him.

The ejection seemed to light a fire under the Raptors as they battled in the fourth. After a missed free throw by Ibaka with less than a minute to go, Kawhi and Lowry doubled teamed DeRozan as he brought the ball up the floor causing a turnover and an uncontested lay-up for Leonard to put the Raptors up one. A chance for DeRozan to take the final shot didn’t transpire and the Raptors ended up with the win 118-117.

Here are our three takeaways.

DeMar DeRozan vs Kawhi Leonard

Tale of the Tape

DeMar DeRozan– You just knew DeMar DeRozan would come out strong in this game. The appreciation and love he felt certainly got him going early, scoring 11 in the first half. Though he didn’t have the game he did back in San Antonio against the Raptors, he was sharp and efficient offensively, despite a good Raptor defense against him.

In the end, he was the best Spur scoring 23 points on 7 for 12 shooting in 34 minutes. In the best passing season of his career, he also managed eight assists against his former team. Unfortunately, he turned the ball over to a Leonard and Lowry double team in the final minute which resulted in the Raps going up one for good. Ironic, don’t you think?

Kawhi Leonard – Leonard had a mediocre first half, hitting only two shots. He lacked energy on the defensive end and looked frustrated and impatient on offense. He managed to pick it up in the second half, fighting through the double and triple teams the Spurs sent his way.

He certainly wasn’t fantastic on offense, finishing with an inefficient line of 8-23 from the field and 0-4 from deep. He was able to contribute in other ways, adding six rebounds and two steals, none more important than his final one against DeMar.

Decision – This night was DeMar’s. And although it didn’t finish the way he would’ve liked, he played a better game than Kawhi amidst the gravity of the situation. He was composed under pressure, efficient despite the adrenalin and professional despite the frustration he must have felt about how his departure all went down. This is the DeMar DeRozan Raptors fans know all about. And he’ll be missed.

Bench Struggles

These guys certainly aren’t the Bench Mob, are they?

The Raptors bench was outscored 60-26 by the Spurs. Former Raptor Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills, and Davis Bertans were lights out offensively, contributing 21, 15 and 16 points respectively. They had the Raptors bench scurrying on defense, failing to switch effectively, scrambling, leaving open shots from deep, giving the Spurs bench the opportunity to shoot nearly 50-percent from three.

The Raptors bench as a unit was sub-par. Gasol had an abnormally bad game, forcing errant passes and shot only two for seven from the field. He finished with four points in 17 minutes. Norman Powell also struggled hitting only 1-6 from the field. Jeremy Lin played decent in the second half, making a couple of nice passes off the dribble to Ibaka but was unable to score with any consistency, finishing with 11 on four for eleven shooting.

Call it ‘first game back jitters’, call it a lack of chemistry, call it missing Fred VanVleet, these guys certainly need more time together to figure out how to play together. And there will be some time for them to do that. The Raptors remaining schedule provides plenty of days off, plenty of opportunities for practice time. Expect Nurse to continue to juggle the line-ups in VanVleet’s absence, perhaps even moving Gasol to the starting rotation more often.

Pascal Siakam – Future All-Star and Team MVP

One very bright light for the Raptors on this night was the play of emerging All-Star Pascal Siakam.

It’s becoming a tradition here to write about the rise of the Toronto Raptors next superstar. Siakam was excellent offensively, attacking the rim with an increasing breadth of moves to get to the basket.

He finished with 22 points on seven for ten shooting including going perfect from downtown. He got to the line nine times proving he is becoming harder to coral in the paint. He’s also finding the open man, especially as the odd double team is sent his way. Mans got skills.

In the end, the Raptors won a game (perhaps that they shouldn’t have) that was emotionally charged. Many would be understanding with a loss here. They have now won seven in a row and are in a dog fight for a top spot against Milwaukee.

Next. Three Ways Marc Gasol Will Make an Impact. dark

Most importantly, DeMar DeRozan, Raptor legend, got closure on his time in Toronto and was sent off with the appreciation he deserved. Pretty good for a Friday night.

Make sure to check out our takeaways after each game here at