DeMar DeRozan continues his scorching start, hanging 40 on the Wizards

The best player in the Eastern Conference is, as it’s been for the last dozen or so years, LeBron James. But the hottest player in the East at the start of the 2016-17 NBA season? That’d be DeMar DeRozan.

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The Toronto Raptors shooting guard and newly minted Olympic gold medalist continued his torrid start to the new campaign on Wednesday. He poured in 40 points — his second 40-spot in four games — to go with five rebounds, five assists and just one turnover in 37 minutes to lead the Raps to a 113-103 win over the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center. Toronto improved to 3-1 on the season, while Washington remained winless at 0-3.

The two-time All-Star scored 28 of those 40 after halftime, making shot after tough mid-range shot and making a steady march to the free-throw line to carry the Raptors offense. He finished 14-for-23 from the field and 11-for-16 from the stripe, provided enough firepower for Toronto to survive a listless start that put them in a 12-point hole late in the first quarter, as well as a shaky defensive effort that allowed John Wall to run rampant (33 points on 11-for-19 shooting and 11 assists, albeit against nine turnovers) and the Wizards, who entered Wednesday winless and ranked 28th among 30 NBA teams in offensive efficiency, to shoot 58.3 percent from the field with a whopping 68 points in the paint.

DeRozan wasn’t a one-man gang on Wednesday. Fellow All-Star guard Kyle Lowry chipped in 18 points, four steals and two assists, and reserves Terrence Ross (15 points on 6-for-8 shooting) and Patrick Patterson (10 points, three rebounds, two assists) provided the punch to help the Raptors to a 34-11 scoring edge off the bench. But the USC product’s continued brilliance remains Toronto’s top story, as he’s now scored 30 or more in all four of the Raptors’ games this season, tying a franchise record.

And after doing all of his damage from inside the arc in the first three games, making a bit of history along the way, DeRozan even hit an icing-on-the-cake 3-pointer with 33 seconds remaining to cap the game. That prompted his backcourt partner to poke at the critics who continue to harp on what DeRozan can’t do while giving short shrift to all that he can. From Chris O’Leary of the Toronto Star:

“He is playing at another level right now,” said Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, who needed three stitches after catching a Marcin Gortat elbow under his right eye in the first quarter. “He’s saving possessions, he’s creating possessions, he’s creating offence and tonight he hit a three.”

DeRozan was 1-for-2 from deep, making his first three this season on six overall attempts. He also had five rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 14-for-23.

“Now y’all can’t say he ain’t a three-point shooter,” Lowry continued, making sure DeRozan heard him in the stall next to him. “He is 1-for-2. That’s 50 per cent. Now what? He scored 40 points and hit a three. What are y’all going to say now?”

Well, they’re probably going to say that they don’t think it’s likely DeRozan will continue to make 55 percent of his midrange jumpers, getting to the free throw line 10 times a night, and averaging 36.3 points in 37.2 minutes per game. And, y’know, they’re probably right. The Raptors will take it all for as long as they can get it, though, because right now, DeMar DeRozan’s doing the things he does best better than just about any player in the NBA’s doing anything.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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