DeMar DeRozan had a spectacular night for the San Antonio Spurs. He scored 36 points, his highest total of the season, and helped lead the Spurs to a 131-118 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.
DeRozan’s game ended well, but it didn’t begin that way. He nailed a 16-footer to begin the game, but missed his next five shots. He was just 3-of-12 to start, and when he faltered the team’s lead followed suit. But he credits one man for helping him find the strength to make the best of it, to dig deep and unearth some of his best basketball — his coach, Gregg Popovich.
DeRozan spoke to ESPN after the Spurs’ win over the Trail Blazers and revealed what Pop had said to him that kept replaying in his mind during the game.
DeRozan said Popovich has been “preaching” to him the mantra of “no guilt” when it comes to shooting the basketball.
“I’ve been listening to him,” DeRozan said.
There wasn’t any guilt in DeRozan’s game on Sunday, but as you’d imagine, Popovich gave all the credit to DeRozan, praising his ability to overcome adversity.
“That’s why he has been an All-Star for so long,” Popovich said. “You just keep going. If you have a bad stretch, you know the percentages are probably with you. He’s been around a long time. He’s very confident, and he knows what he can do. That’s not going to bother him if he misses a few shots. Scorers shouldn’t have a conscience.”
DeRozan’s ability to turn on beast mode helped the Spurs in a tough spot. The team had lost its seven-point lead in the third quarter and was losing by two, with DeRozan missing a number of shots. Then DeRozan started scoring, and just couldn’t stop. He closed out the third quarter by scoring 18 of the Spurs’ 20 points, including 15 straight. The Spurs led 97-90 and never gave back the lead.
After the game, DeRozan told ESPN that he had wanted to inject some life into his team in the third quarter.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” DeRozan said. “I remember looking up there at the clock. There were six minutes on the clock, and I knew I was going to come out soon. So I was just like, ‘Let me just put some energy into this quarter’ so I could feel good by the time I sat down.”
He accomplished that goal with flying colors. The Spurs’ 131 points were their highest total in regulation this season, and 36 of those belonged to DeRozan. The Spurs aren’t having the greatest season, and are still under .500 at 11-12, but the win against the Trail Blazers brought them closer to even. And their division is still wide open — a few more victories could see them jump into third or even second place.
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