Toronto Raptors Win Nail-Biter in DeMar DeRozan’s Return
DeMar DeRozan called it his “last little piece of closure.” In front of a boisterous Scotiabank Arena crowd last night, he got the love that he deserved. “She moved on and I moved on,” he joked. “Now we’re both happy.” Asked about seeing his ‘ex’ [the Raptors] for the first time, he replied “yeah, you’d be like, damn she’s still fine as hell.”
20,048 Raptors fans showered DeRozan with love, rewarding him with three standing ovations. “It’s an honour. I spent practically my whole career here, to come back and get a reception like that is definitely humbling, beyond gratifying and I appreciate it,” said DeRozan after the game. “Walking off the floor it hit me more than anything. Just a feeling of, knowing what it’s like walking off that floor, whether it’s from playoff games, the good, the bad, the ugly.”
The first ovation came when DeRozan and the Spurs entered the court, followed by a second shortly after, during DeRozan’s introduction. The third and longest ovation came during the first timeout of the game, when a video tribute to DeMar appeared on the big screen.
Before recapping the actual game, let’s rewind for a moment. The Raptors drafted DeMar back in the 2009 draft with the ninth overall pick. In nine seasons, DeRozan was a major factor in putting the Raptors back on the map and leading them to their most successful era in team history. DeMar is the franchise leader in points (13, 296), field goals (4, 716), free throws (3, 539) and games (675).
Standing O from coast to coast pic.twitter.com/5GN505Feyu
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 23, 2019
He expected to be a Raptor his whole career and the separation was quite messy but it seems as though the bad blood has subsided. In a recent interview he stated that “time does heal everything”. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to be back to the same way it was. I’ve moved on, I’m happy where I’m at. Still talk to most of the guys (Raptors players). So that’s that. That part will never change, but we’ve all moved on.”
As for the game itself, the Raptors came away with a 120-117 victory. It wasn’t a particularly inspiring performance from the Raptors; as yet again, they struggled in a nationally televised game. Kawhi Leonard led the team with 25 points but shot only 8 of 23 from the field. Besides Leonard, it was a balanced attack with six players scoring in double digits.
It was a rough ending to what was otherwise a great night for DeRozan. He finished with 23 points and 8 assists on 7 of 12 from the field, but did commit the pivotal turnover in the dying seconds of the game. The fact that Leonard, the player brought in to take the Raptors to next level, ended up getting the steal from DeRozan and scoring the game-winning basket made for an interesting narrative.
Post-game, Kawhi shared his thoughts stating that, “tonight was like a playoff game. We had to grind it out all the way to the end.” Asked about the final play and whether he and Lowry planned the trap beforehand, Leonard replied “No, just chemistry. Just us playing with each other. He told me he saw me go to poke at the ball, end up getting a hand on it, and he said he was coming right away. We ended getting the steal.”
Lowry echoed Kawhi’s words post-game, “It was just: be patient, don’t foul right away, try to get the trap first. I was going no matter what. I turned him, and once he turned I went after the ball. One of us got our hand on it. I hit it up and Leonard grabbed it and we got going.” After the game, the two best friends, Lowry and DeRozan had a warm embrace.
DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry meet on the court following the game and the Raptors fans love what they see. pic.twitter.com/QGf3vJ5keG
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) February 23, 2019
At the end of the day, in what was a memorable night, the Raptors got an important victory and officially closed a chapter with one of their all-time greats.