The Toronto Raptors seemed to have a firm grasp on the third-seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference after a strong showing to start 2014, but the recent play of the middle-tier teams in the East’s playoff standing have started to gain ground and are now nipping at their heels with three teams within three games of Toronto.
The Raptors didn’t do anything to help their cause on Monday night when they faced off with the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets lit up the Raptors from long-range, ultimately resulting in 101-97 victory for Brooklyn. Despite their defense not being at its best, though, DeMar DeRozan’s performance on the night was what really stood out for Toronto.
While Kyle Lowry came up big for the thousandth time this season and got solid help from Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough, DeRozan was a shell of himself. Even with playing 35 minutes, DeRozan only finished the contest with 14 points, three rebounds and on assist while shooting only 3-9 from the floor, though he did hit all eight of his free-throw attempts.
While you like to see DeRozan getting to the line eight times as a sign of him attacking the rim, the Raptors cannot afford to have DeRozan playing that small of a role in their offense. Lowry is arguably the biggest part of Toronto’s offense, but DeRozan is right up there in terms of importance.
DeRozan is averaging 18.2 field goal attempts per game this season, as well as 22.8 points per contest. If Toronto is going to hang onto the three-seed and fend off charging teams like Nets in the standings, they are going to require DeRozan remaining aggressive on a nightly basis. Sure, the Raptors need to feed the hot hand if someone is feeling it. However, DeRozan has been their reliable workhorse this season and it’d be a shame to see their hard work not pay off they don’t have him helping lead the charge every night he’s on the floor.