DeRozan scored 25 points with six rebounds and four assists as the Toronto Raptors held off a late charge by the Detroit Pistons for a 114-110 victory on Sunday.
DeRozan missed 21 games between Nov. 30 and Jan. 12 with a torn left adductor tendon. Although he'd played in six games before Sunday's win, he finally felt 100 per cent against the Pistons.
"Tonight was the first night that every time I got it in transition I pushed it up and down the court," said DeRozan. "I was kind of intimidated doing it in a lot of games before.
"Every single day I feel more comfortable and better."
Jonas Valanciunas had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Toronto (29-15), which has now won back-to-back games. It was Valanciunas's team-best 14th double-double of the season.
"DeMar was going to find his legs at the right time and he did tonight," said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. "I thought Jonas came in and gave us a good presence inside offensively, so I was really pleased with our overall offensive production."
All-star point guard Kyle Lowry had 11 points and eight assists for the Raptors. He addressed the sold-out crowd from halfcourt before the game, thanking them for their support in voting him a starter in the NBA All-Star game. He received a standing ovation as he promised to represent Toronto and Canada to the best of his abilities.
D.J. Augustin led Detroit (17-28) with a career-high 35 points. He added eight assists and four rebounds, substituting for the injured Brandon Jennings.
"When you come out early and play a lot of minutes you get more comfortable rather than coming off the bench," said Augustin. "You get a rhythm quicker and you are able to play through that rhythm."
Before the game Detroit confirmed that Jennings would be out for the rest of the season with a torn Achilles tendon. He was injured in the Pistons' 101-86 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. Jennings averaged 15.7 points and 6.7 assists per game before getting hurt.
Augustin's career performance jeopardized the Raptors victory late in the fourth quarter.
DeRozan drained two free throws with 1:58 left to play in the fourth to give Toronto a 105-99 lead. Patrick Patterson grabbed a rebound at the other end to maintain Raptors possession. A cheer erupted from the crowd as DeRozan's turnaround fade-away jump shot bounced around the rim and in to make it 107-99.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope replied with a three-pointer and then Amir Johnson was called for an offensive foul, giving Detroit the ball. Lowry fouled Augustin, who made both shots to reduce Toronto's lead to 107-104.
A personal foul on Greg Monroe gave Johnson two free throws, which he made.
DeRozan grabbed a defensive rebound on the next play and was immediately fouled by Detroit's Jodie Meeks. DeRozan sank his second free throw for a 110-104 lead.
"I almost forgot how I used to get to the free-throw line" said DeRozan with a laugh. He went 8 for 10 at the line on Sunday. "It felt good. I just wanted to go out there and be aggressive."
Augustin made a driving layup for the Pistons and on the next possession. Meeks again fouled a Raptor, this time sending Lowry to the line.
Lowry made both of his free throws as chants of "M-V-P" rained down from the stands. Lowry fouled Caldwell-Pope on a three-point shot, making it a four-point play. Caldwell-Pope's single free throw pulled Detroit to 112-110.
Terrence Ross made two free-throws at the other end of the court to give Toronto a 114-110 lead, then grabbed a rebound off of Caldwell-Pope's three-point attempt to seal the win.
Valanciunas was dominant in the paint, especially in the third quarter.
His layup 1:43 into that quarter capped a 15-3 run and gave the Raptors a 64-53 lead, their biggest of the game to that point. He had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds with 8:59 left in the third.
Augustin replied for Detroit, dropping a pull-up jump shot with 5:05 remaining in the quarter to reduce the Pistons' deficit to 75-70, forcing Toronto to call a full timeout on its next possession. That huddle seemed to settle the Raptors, who controlled play for the rest of the quarter.
Valanciunas had eight points and five rebounds in the third alone, as Toronto maintained its double-digit lead, 89-79.
"I was just active. I was just going everywhere," said Valanciunas. "To be a successful rebounder you've got to be active. You've got to go for the glass."
Lowry scored his first points of the game with 3:36 left in the first quarter when he faked a call for a timeout as he crossed halfcourt, then drove to the lane for the easy layup with the Pistons players standing still. Toronto led Detroit 26-25 by the end of the first.
Valanciunas was the strongest player for Toronto in the first half, scoring 12 points and pulling down six rebounds by the intermission as the Raptors built a 58-53 advantage.
Notes: It was a sold out crowd of 19,800. ... Amir Johnson was a late addition to the starting lineup. He had been questionable with a sore left shoulder. ... Forward Bruno Caboclo and centre Lucas Nogueira were inactive for the Raptors. Forward Luigi Datome was inactive for the Pistons.
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