TORONTO — Guard DeMar DeRozan showed his ability to adapt for the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.
Struggling from the field, DeRozan set new career-highs with 11 rebounds and six steals as Toronto defeated the Atlanta Hawks 109-102 at Air Canada Centre.
“That’s my job. I’m trying not to be just a scorer,” said DeRozan, who added 15 points in the win. “Got to understand when we’re not making shots, not just myself, we all got to figure out other ways to impact the game in a big way. That was what I was trying to do. “
The highlight of DeRozan’s night was a memorable sequence with under a minute remaining in the fourth.
DeRozan missed a pair of free throws, but was able to grab the rebound and draw a foul. Back at the line, he hit both shots to give Toronto a 107-101 lead with 32 seconds remaining.
It was a much-needed turn of events for the Raptors, who weathered a late 15-2 surge from the Hawks.
“It won’t happen again, won’t happen again,” DeRozan said of the missed shots. “Luckily I got the rebound.”
Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas led the way with a team-high 17 points and eight rebounds while forward Amir Johnson had 16 points 10 rebounds — the largest opening night totals of his 10-year career. Guard Greivis Vasquez had 12 points off the bench.
“There’s other ways to win other than looking at the shooting stats,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “A lot of times a young team will look at and start panicking and play even worse offense.
“We didn’t, we allowed the game to come to us and continue to compete, continue to play even though our shots weren’t falling.”
Hawks starting guards Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague each finished with a game-high 20 points, with Kover going 6-for-7 from three-point range. Forward Mike Scott also had 20 points off the bench with Al Horford adding 12 points and Paul Millsap 13.
“It is opening night and I think Toronto has a heck of a team, give them credit their energy was very good,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. “I feel good about our guys fighting back. Offensively there are some things that we can build on.”
Raptors reserve guard Lou Williams’ buzzer beater to end the third gave his team an 86-71 lead — their largest of the night.
Through three quarters the Raptors were 17 of 19 from the line while Atlanta was just 9 of 17.
Toronto closed the first half on a 9-2 run to take a 60-52 lead into recess.
Vasquez, with back-to-back threes early in the period, helped the Raptors open an eight-point lead.
“They’re coming, it’s not there yet, guys are still trying to find their way,” Casey said of the Raptors bench. “There’s going to be nights that Lou Williams is going to be huge, there’s going to be nights where James Johnson is going to be huge.
“There’s going to be nights its’ Greivis (Vasquez’s) night — that’s just the way our roster is built right now.”
Scott was hot early, hitting 4-of-5 into the second quarter.
Korver was hot from 3-point range, hitting 3 of 4 in the second and finished the first half 4-for-5 from beyond the arc.
“We just had a good click going on, we had a good feel,” said Scott of the bench. “The second group, we just try to come in and play with energy, just like all the benches in the league try to provide energy, play smart and play together.”
Williams drained a shot from deep to give the Raptors a 24-22 lead after one period.
All five Raptors starters hit early field goals giving Toronto an early 11-5 lead in the first quarter.
NOTES: Atlanta G John Jenkins and F Adreian Payne were inactive for the Hawks. … Raptors C Greg Stiemsma (ankle) was not available. Toronto F Bruno Caboclo also was inactive. … Terrence Ross became the Raptors’ 10th different opening-night starter at small forward since Vince Carter was traded in December 2004. … Toronto tipped off its 20th season in the NBA. … Raptors G Lou Williams and C Lucas Nogueira were acquired from the Hawks on June 30 in exchange for G John Salmons.
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