DeMar DeRozan was in no mood to lose when the Toronto Raptors, his former team, waltzed into San Antonio on Thursday night. It was always going to be about revenge.
His Spurs career didn't get off to a great start. The team is fighting to remain in the top eight and make the playoffs; they have come a long way since the beginning of the season. But it probably wasn't even about that for DeRozan.
This wasn't just another game needing to be won. It wasn't simply another hurdle out of the 82. Thursday night's contest wasn't just a chance to improve their record. The four-time All-Star was looking to make the Raptors pay for what he perceived to be disloyalty. He wanted them to hurt.
His trade to San Antonio changed the landscape of the NBA. With Kawhi Leonard going the other way, and in a much healthier state than he was last season, Toronto was always going to be a title contender.
The Canadian outfit showed their credentials quite early and they have recorded the most wins so far this season. DeRozan and the Spurs, though, despite their immense struggles to remain relevant, were simply not ready to lose to the Raptors.
The shooting guard, undoubtedly one of the best in the league, is now approaching his 10th year. But he'd never recorded a triple-double - ever.
What better time to lodge some numbers than on a night when a former team you didn't want to leave but got traded from anyway comes into town? The 29-year-old stepped up in a way he never had before; he scored 21 points, hauled 14 rebounds and made 11 assists to register the first triple-double of his career and help his team to a convincing 125-107 victory over the visitors.
The only sore point came in the form of not being able to play against former teammate and best friend Kyle Lowry, with the point guard sidelined as the result of lower back soreness.
The Raptors had no idea what hit them, Leonard was more or less neutralized as Gregg Popovich's team played with a renewed energy that was likely boosted by an effusive home crowd who were just as eager to get one over their former golden boy; and showed it by their booing of his every touch.
🏀 FINAL SCORE THREAD 🏀— NBA (@NBA) January 4, 2019
DeMar DeRozan (21 PTS, 14 REB, 11 AST) records his 1st career triple-double to lead the @spurs over Toronto at home!#GoSpursGo 125#WeTheNorth 107
Bryn Forbes: 20 PTS, 6 3PM
LaMarcus Aldridge: 23 PTS
Derrick White: 19 PTS, 4 AST pic.twitter.com/R2YIOpAabA
What This Means
DeRozan showed a different side on Thursday. Known for being a potent scorer, the guard proved that he could be multidimensional.
His milestone will have left the Raptors seething privately but, in the grand scheme of things, they are expected to achieve more than San Antonio this season.
Be that as it may, the night belonged to DeRozan, who must be feeling a whole lot better after having his heart broken by the organization in which he had placed all of his faith.