DeRozan stays hot, lifts Raptors to win over Heat

DeMar DeRozan scored 34 points to lead the Toronto Raptors to the win over the Miami Heat.

TORONTO — Moments after yet another sizzling performance, someone asked DeMar DeRozan in the post-game locker-room if he’s getting sick of talking about himself.

"Yes. I hate it," he said.

The reluctant Raptors hero, and the NBA’s leading scorer, had better get used to it.

DeRozan scored 34 points to lift the Raptors to a 96-87 victory over the Miami Heat, becoming the first player since Michael Jordan in 1986 — three years before DeRozan was born — to open a season with five 30-plus games.

"Yeah I heard," DeRozan said, with a sigh. "I don’t believe it, me personally. I don’t believe it, honestly. I’m just going to say that."

Jordan’s streak reached six games.

Terrence Ross finished with 20 points in his best game of this young season, while Kyle Lowry had 13 and eight assists for the Raptors (4-1). Jonas Valanciunas grabbed 10 rebounds.

Hassan Whiteside had 21 points to top the Heat (2-3), while Goran Dragic had 17 and Tyler Johnson finished with 16.

DeRozan, who leads the league with 35.8 points a game, looked destined for a quiet night Friday, with just 12 points in the first half. But he lit it up in the second on a 14-for-26 shooting night.

Valanciunas played the comedian in the post-game locker-room, hollering "Still 46th, man!" as DeRozan spoke to reporters. "But number one in our hearts!" the big Lithuanian added.

Valanciunas was referring to a Sports Illustrated pre-season poll that ranked DeRozan No. 46 in the league.

"That (poll) did a lot too," DeRozan said. "Me personally, I always find motivation in every single thing. I thrive off challenges, that’s just how I was raised, that’s the environment I grew up in. You show me something, I’m going to be rebellious and go against your opinion."

The Raptors led by double digits for much of what marked the first meeting between the two teams since Toronto dispatched Miami in last season’s thrilling Eastern Conference semifinals.

But the Heat closed the third quarter with a furious 17-4 run, cutting the Raptors’ advantage to 75-72 with one quarter left.

Miami kept the game close through the fourth until three straight baskets by DeRozan put the Raptors ahead by nine points with just under two minutes to play. He fed Valanciunas for a basket on the next play. Toronto was back up by double digits with 1:28 to play and pulled away down the stretch.

"DeMar DeRozan, he’s mine, he’s ours, he belongs to the Raptors," said coach Dwane Casey. "He’s been great, he’s been a great leader, and his approach has been very professional."

DeRozan got a big assist from Ross, who made an immediate impact when he checked into the game late in the first quarter with his team trailing by 12.

Ross was 8-of-15 including one over-the-head circus shot where he had to turn and check whether the ball had dropped through the hoop. It had. And the capacity crowd at the Air Canada Centre crowd, which included four-time Olympic swimming medallist Penny Oleksiak, ate it up.

"Just staying ready, being ready, playing my game, playing within the offence and trying to have fun," Ross said of his solid performance.

Perhaps lost amid DeRozan’s offensive outburst was a solid defensive performance across the board. The Raptors held the Heat to 39 per cent, while shooting 44 per cent. They outrebounded their visitors 50-43.

James Johnson, who played two seasons in Toronto before signing with Miami in the off-season, received a warm ovation when he checked into the game.

The Heat raced out to a 12-point lead, but with eight points from Ross, Toronto finished the frame on a 12-2 run to cut Miami’s advantage to 27-25 heading into the second.

Ross led the way with eight points in the second quarter, and the Raptors went into the halftime break up 52-46.

A pair of DeRozan free throws put the Raptors in front by 16 points with four minutes left in the third quarter — their biggest lead to that point.

The Raptors host Sacramento on Sunday, then hit the road for a game at Oklahoma City on Wednesday followed by Charlotte on Friday.

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