DeMar DeRozan went full Maple Jordan on the Milwaukee Bucks

Yahoo Sports
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/teams/tor/" data-ylk="slk:Toronto Raptors">Toronto Raptors</a> guard <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/olympics/rio-2016/a/1128527/" data-ylk="slk:DeMar DeRozan">DeMar DeRozan</a> (10) shoots over <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/teams/mil/" data-ylk="slk:Milwaukee Bucks">Milwaukee Bucks</a> forward <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/5020/" data-ylk="slk:John Henson">John Henson</a> (31) during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) shoots over Milwaukee Bucks forward John Henson (31) during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

DeMar DeRozan should be on every NBA academic’s viewing syllabus in 2018. It’s understandable if he got lost in the shuffle between the stacked West or LeBron James’ the Kyrie Irving tectonic jockeying for Eastern supremacy or Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ascent. New Year’s Day is a fresh start and DeRozan resolved not to get lost in the shuffle by beginning 2018 splashing coffee all over the basketball world in a 131-127 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Utilizing an array of midrange pull-ups, running floaters, 3-point slingshots and slashes to the rim, DeRozan dropped 52 points on Milwaukee via 17-of-29 field goal shooting and distributed eight assists. He also earned 13 trips to the line and drained every attempt, including two that knotted the score at 114 with 37 seconds left in regulation.

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The  Bucks came into Toronto touting the bigger star, but DeRozan has the more diverse scoring package.  And I’m not even talking about the Greek Freak. Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton was ranked ahead of DeRozan in a few national preseason NBA player rankings so this one had a personal element to it.

While DeRozan is perceived to be a perennial All-Star, he’s not registering MVP-like praise on the level of Kyrie Irving or Antetokounmpo. DeRozan doesn’t even inspire the same viscerally positive emotions as Vince Carter, who’s still getting love from fans at 40, but he is the Raptors GOAT and with every record, the cement surrounding that status dries. DeRozan’s 52 point imprint eclipsed the single game record of 51 points, held by Carter and Terrence Ross.

The five three-pointers he drilled is reflective of the leaps he’s made as a floor-spacing shooter. DeRozan has already surpassed his 2016-17 season total for made 3-pointers in 19 fewer attempts. He’s averaging a career-high in assists.

DeRozan even played blackout defense on the final possession, preventing Malcolm Brogdon from getting a shot off before the end of regulation buzzer sounded. In overtime, DeRozan led the way with eight points to keep the Raptors aligned with Boston in a race for the East’s No. 1 seed.

He may be overlooked this season, but DeRozan’s teammates appreciated his Maple Jordan mode. Afterwards, Jonas Valanciunas gave DeRozan the Wilt in Hershey, Pennsylvania treatment.

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DJ Dunson is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at dunsnchecksin@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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