A night after missing a layup that could have provided the Toronto Raptors with an upset win over the Miami Heat, DeMar DeRozan hit a 22-foot fade away jumper at the buzzer giving his team an important 97-95 win over the Orlando Magic on Thursday.
It was the first game-winning buzzer beater for the franchise since 2006 when T.J. Ford hit one from the foul line and gave the Chris Bosh-less Raptors a 98-96 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
“They just put the ball in my hands and it was up to me to make something happen,” DeRozan told reporters after the game.
“Just tried to be there for my team, try to be aggressive and not settle so much. Try to play within the flow of the game and that’s what I did. I’ve been struggling last couple of games, I just tried to come out tonight and play better.”
(Skip to plays 2 and 1 for DeRozan.)
The Raptors can only hope that this is the turning point in what’s been a disappointing few weeks for the 23-year-old shooting guard. Through the first two months of the Raptors season, DeRozan looked like a much improved player, even proving to be worth the four-year $38 million extension the he signed at the end of October. He was driving the ball, shooting higher percentages from the field, and playing more effectively in the post. He appeared to be coming into his own.
That is until the team entered into January and DeRozan seemingly went back to being his old self: keeping his game to the perimeter and relying more and more on his jump shot which is still a work in progress when it comes to consistency.
“I thought that was his resolve, him bouncing back from a tough couple weeks,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters after the last second win.” A lot of it was that we rode DeMar hard the first month and a half, two months. He played huge minutes. It’s probably worn on him a little bit. He bounced back tonight and competed.”
What the Raptors got out of DeRozan Thursday has to be the type of performance that they were hoping Kyle Lowry could provide down the stretch in games. DeRozan scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter while ironically Lowry, for the most part, watched from the bench.
The Raptors win and a Boston Celtics loss put Toronto within four and a half games of the eighth and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, with two other teams in Detroit and Philadelphia to jump over. There’s still plenty of work to be done if the playoffs are still the goal for this season, but if DeRozan can bring more out of what we saw out of him Thursday night, that can only improve the Raptors postseason chances.