Over and over again, DeMar DeRozan did all he could. It took the form of mid-range jump shots, head-down drives that sent him wincing to the line, and violent attempted dunks trying to bring his team to life against an opponent readying a death blow. There are limits to what a single man can do, however, and DeRozan reached that in the Raptors’ 115-94 Game 3 defeat on Friday.
Despite his 37 points (12-of-23 from the floor, 13-of-13 from the line), DeRozan watched his team fall down three games to none against Cleveland. Assuming the Cavaliers don’t blow their 3-0 lead, something no NBA team has ever done, this will be the second consecutive season where the Raptors fell to LeBron James. He doesn’t respect them, and they did nothing to prove him wrong. Kyle Lowry didn’t play in Game 3, and the first game in this series was close, but none of that matters when you’re facing a lead that has never been topped.
DeRozan was amazing on Friday, but it may not answer all the questions about him. Twice in these playoffs, he had games where he was nearly a complete no-show — eight points on 0-of-8 shooting in Game 3 against the Bucks, and five points in Game 2 of this series. That’s hard to stomach from someone who’s supposed to be your best scorer and, depending on you feel about Kyle Lowry, best overall player. (Lowry wasn’t good this postseason, either. It’s a trend for both.)
The analysis about DeRozan that’s now growing boring is that his game doesn’t fit into the modern NBA. There is some validity to that, perhaps less in the way the play manifests itself and more in the way it allows defenses to limit him. Still, DeRozan did make crucial plays while having enormous games against the Bucks, averaging 24 points in that series.
As the Raptors were nudged onto the chopping block, DeRozan resisted for all he was worth. Without Lowry and facing an all-time force in this league in LeBron James, there just wasn’t a happy ending to be had in Toronto on Friday.