DeMar DeRozan had a solid 2017, but he’s focused on making 2018 much better. Monday night against the Milwaukee Bucks was an incredible start. 

Most people can agree on one thing — 2017 was trash. Outside of sports, which were incredible, it was a year that many of us wish didn’t happen. DeMar DeRozan was someone who blossomed, but now it’s evident that his goal is to make 2018 1,000 times better. He wasted no time. The Toronto Raptors took on the Milwaukee Bucks on New Year’s Day, and DeRozan dropped 52 points in a 131-127 win.

“I remember being a kid and wishing to be in moments like that,” said DeRozan after the game. “When you come out here and you’re in those moments, you’ve got to make the best out of them.”

His 52 points weren’t just a career-high; it marked a new franchise record. The previous best was 51, recorded by Vince Carter (Feb. 27, 2000) and Terrence Ross (Jan. 25, 2014). DeRozan also became the fourth player this season to eclipse the 50-point plateau, joining LeBron James (57), James Harden (56, 51, 51) and Bradley Beal (51). Head coach Dwane Casey added that DeRozan “played like a superstar.”

Toronto improved to 5-2 over their last seven games, wherein DeRozan has dominated. His 28.9 points a night is third among players who have played in all seven contests. Previously, he had set a career-high of 45 against the Philadelphia 76ers on Dec. 21.

During this run, DeRozan has become a far less reluctant shooter. And that’s one of the reasons he’s scoring with high volume as of late. Against the Bucks, the 28-year-old was 5-of-9 from downtown. On average, he’s burying 2.9 threes a night at a 52.6 percent clip over this torrid stretch. Milwaukee had no answer for him.

DeRozan put on a fabulous all-around scoring display, and he hasn’t strayed away from his foundation despite being more trigger happy. He remains one of the NBA’s most lethal mid-range shooters and has impeccable footwork that makes the most difficult attempts much more manageable. When the defenders can’t sag off, DeRozan is unguardable. And the Bucks found out the hard way.

On top of pouring in 15 points from downtown, DeRozan utilized his explosiveness and earned 13 trips to the foul line, where he was perfect.

The Toronto Raptors are 25-10 overall, putting them 2.5 games behind the Boston Celtics for the conference’s first seed. Should DeMar DeRozan continue to dominate like he is now, the Raptors are going to be a feared team late in the regular season. Of course, the most significant question is if it’ll continue in the postseason.

Nightly Notables:

  • Caris LeVert had 15 points, eight assists and five rebounds off the bench for the Brooklyn Nets on Monday. It was his fourth-straight game recording at least 10, five and five as a reserve, a streak that only Tyreke Evans (Dec. 18-27, 2013) has equaled since 2013.
  • Jimmy Butler had 28 points and nine assists in a blowout win over the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s now averaging 27.2 points over his last 11 contests, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are considerably improved because of Butler’s play.
  • C.J. McCollum led the Portland Trail Blazers to a 124-120 win over the Chicago Bulls in overtime. Without Damian Lillard, McCollum poured in 32 points and dished out eight dimes.

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