Right now, DeMar DeRozan is unstoppable
Yes, James Harden is on an obscene run to start the season, and Russell Westbrook keeps compiling roughly all of the stats. If you’re looking for the NBA’s leading scorer, though, you’ll have to look north of the border, because DeMar DeRozan is freaking cooking.
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The All-Star shooting guard continued his scorching start to the 2016-17 season on Wednesday, scoring 37 points with six assists, four rebounds and three steals in 39 minutes of work to lead the Toronto Raptors to a 112-102 road win over Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder. DeRozan scored 11 of his 37 in a dominant second quarter that saw the Raptors shake off a sluggish start to outscore their hosts 42-28. Eight of those points came during a decisive 18-4 mid-second run that put Toronto on top for good, as the Raptors improved to 5-2 on the season and notched a strong road win without starting center Jonas Valanciunas (left knee contusion) and key reserve Terrence Ross (sprained right index finger).
It was DeRozan’s sixth 30-point game in seven outings to start the new season, putting him in stellar company alongside two Hall of Famers:
DeMar DeRozan became the 3rd player in the last 35 years with 6 30+ point games in first 7 games of a season. pic.twitter.com/7K3RJB5VAv
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 10, 2016
His league-leading scoring mark stands at 34.1 points in 37.5 minutes per game, making him the first player since Michael Jordan in 1989-90 to average at least 34 points through his team’s first seven games. Even more impressive: the 53.3 percent shooting clip DeRozan’s rolled up thus far, as he manages to remain an efficient scorer despite finishing a sky-high 37.3 percent of Toronto’s offensive possessions with either a shot attempt, foul drawn or turnover.
Not only did DeRozan continue his torrid scoring, but he did so in his own inimitable throwback fashion. He got to 37 without a single 3-pointer, making 13 of his 20 2-point tries and knocking down 11 of his 15 free throws.
Andre Roberson stalled him early, but the ace Thunder perimeter stopper picked up two quick fouls, giving way to rookie Alex Abrines and handing the DeRozan assignment to the game but overmatched Kyle Singler. DeRozan found his rhythm and touch and maintained them for the duration no matter who was checking him. He used his footwork and length to create opportunities, both facing up and with his back to the basket. He worked smartly on and off the ball to slither through cracks in Oklahoma City’s interior coverages to get all the way to the rim.
And, as has been the case throughout this early-season inferno, he made some super tough contested jumpers with defenders all over him.
“You know, sometimes you’ve got to tip your hat, and good offense can beat great defense,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after the loss, which drops OKC to 6-2, according to Cliff Brunt of The Associated Press. “He had that happen several times where he made some very, very difficult shots.”
DeRozan went 10-for-15 on contested attempts on Wednesday, according to SportVU player tracking data. That continued a sizzling trend that has seen him drill a shade under 57 percent of his attempts against either “tight” or “very tight” coverage (meaning there’s a defender between 0 and 4 feet away from him and closing out) through the first seven games of the season.
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While DeRozan continues to carry the load for Dwane Casey’s club, which improved to 5-2 with the win, he had help on Wednesday.
All-Star backcourt partner Kyle Lowry struggled with his shot, knocking in just six of his 20 field-goal attempts, but got loose from long-distance with a 5-for-11 mark from 3-point range in a stellar all-around game that produced 19 points, 13 assists, nine rebounds and a block in 43 minutes. Reserves Patrick Patterson (13 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals) and Norman Powell (nine points, two rebounds) added punch off the pine, helping provide enough balance and juice to overcome another crooked-number night from Westbrook, who scored 36 points with seven rebounds, seven assists, two blocks and a steal, but who shot 9-for-26 from the floor (3-for-12 from 3-point range) and committed eight turnovers in 39 minutes.
With Valanciunas sidelined and rookie Jakob Poeltl unimpressive in his second career start, little-used Brazilian big man Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira stepped up with 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting, seven rebounds, two blocks, two steals and an assist in 29 minutes of floor time, during which Toronto outscored Oklahoma City by 30 points.
“Lucas was a plus-30. That was huge for us tonight, coming off the bench and giving us a big plug like that,” Casey said, according to Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun.
With all due respect to Bebe, though, nothing plugs holes like a scorer who just can’t be stopped, and the Raptors undeniably have one of those. DeMar DeRozan might not be the very definition of a modern NBA two-guard, but he’s redefining what a wildly successful contributor at the position can look like in 2016, reminding us along the way that variety is the spice of life.
DeMar with 37 on 22 shots and zero 3's. Time to quit railing on him for the way he does and it and marvel at how he does it.
— Paul Flannery (@Pflanns) November 10, 2016
It's not sustainable but who cares? It's different and fun.
— Paul Flannery (@Pflanns) November 10, 2016
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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter!
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