Toronto Raptors Roundup: DeMar DeRozan’s Emotional Return

Toronto Raptors - DeMar DeRozan (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - DeMar DeRozan (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images) /

DeMar DeRozan’s return highlighted a short week for the Toronto Raptors following the All-Star break. Here are a couple of thoughts that emerged from this week’s action.

That’s Why We Made the Trade. Adequate time has passed for most fans of the Toronto Raptors to have accepted that moving DeMar DeRozan was necessary, despite his allegiance and loyalty to the city.

And while Kawhi Leonard may not re-sign this off-season, in an ‘all-in’ season, the skill set he brings is one the Raptors need to succeed in the playoffs. The last-minute steal by Kawhi on DeMar represents what Leonard will bring to the Raptors come playoff time.

Kawhi definitely didn’t have a complete game against the Spurs and may have been outplayed by DeMar for much of it, but he was able to be clutch when it mattered – down the stretch.

Too often in the past, the Raptors have needed that in close games. Leonard is that guy who can change the game, on either end of the floor. The pressure on DeMar that led to the steal shows what he can do to make a difference when it matters. The Raptors didn’t have that last year.

Kyle Lowry Looks Good. Not sure if it was the trade rumours, the return of his boy DeMar or just that his back has gotten some rest and he’s feeling healthy again, but Lowry looks much improved from the drought he went through following his electric start to the season.

During his tough stretch, he looked passive, too quick to defer. He looked out of sorts when Kawhi was on the floor. Now? He looks aggressive on the offensive end again, attacking the basket with purpose.

During the recent seven-game winning streak, of which he played in six, he averaged 17 points per game. He took more than eight shots from deep each game, making four per. What’s more, he dropped nine assists and four rebounds per game during that stretch. Even in the loss against the Magic, he looked like the Kyle of old, trying to will the Raps back into it. The Raptors will need Lowry to be Lowry when it counts.

Game Recap

San Antonio at Toronto

Coming out of the break, all eyes were on the much anticipated return of DeMar DeRozan to Toronto. In what would be an emotionally charged game, the Toronto fans came out and gave the Raptor great several boisterous, well deserved, standing ovations.

"“To come back here and get a reception like that is definitely humbling, beyond gratifying. I appreciate it.”"

The Raptors played most of the game in second gear with the bench struggling mightily. Pascal Siakam was one bright light for the Raptors dropping another great performance.

In what would be a cruel, cruel finish for DeMar, his late game turnover to Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry led to a go-ahead uncontested dunk for Kawhi. Unfortunately, it left many Raptor fans nodding and saying, “yeah, that’s why we made the trade.”

The Raptor victory was their seventh in a row.

Orlando at Toronto

The Magic came into Toronto fighting for the final playoff spot in the East. Led by former Raptor Terrence Ross, who scored 28 points and nine rebounds off the bench, the Magic were the better team on Sunday afternoon. Nikola Vucevic added 23 points and 12 rebounds of his own.

The Raptors for their part looked tired and weren’t able to put together any semblance of an offence. Their paltry 15 points in the first quarter put them in a hole that they just weren’t able to climb out of. A couple of runs in the second and third quarter looked promising but the team ran out of steam by the fourth as the Magic pulled away for the 113-98 win.

Kyle Lowry was great again, scoring 19 points and 10 assists. New Raptor Jodie Meeks scored all 10 of his points in the second quarter, including a couple of threes.

The Week Ahead

Boston at Toronto

The Celtics were beaten 126-116 to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night –  a team that is more than 20 games behind them in the standings. Couple that loss with ones to Phoenix and New York this year, and you’ve got a team that is just in free fall. Celtics fans are disturbed with a recent trend that their team getting outhustled, outrebounded and giving up too many second-chance points. The Raptors will hope to capitalize on a floundering Boston team.

Portland at Toronto

As of Sunday, the Blazers (36-23) were 2-0 on their seven-game road trip out of the All-Star break, a road trip that will make its way to Toronto on Friday. They recently drubbed the Sixers, led by Jusuf Nurkic, who recorded his 28th double-double of the season and Damian Lillard who flirted with a triple-double.

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Toronto at Detroit

The surging Detroit Pistons host Toronto on Sunday in what may very well be a first-round playoff matchup for the two. Dwayne Casey’s Pistons have won seven of eight and are now in seventh place in the East, just a game and a half behind the Nets. The Pistons bench has stepped it up lately after struggling the previous few games.