Right now, Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan is on the outside of the Eastern Conference All-Star roster looking in. He's sixth in the backcourt voting behind Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, teammate Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler and John Wall.
But Friday night was a different story entirely. DeRozan shared the court with Lowry and Wall and upstaged them both in the Raptors' 97-88 win over the Wizards.
He finished with a season-high 35 points and 8 rebounds, but did his best work from the free throw line. DeRozan got there a whopping 13 times -- more than the entire Wizards starting rotation combined -- and missed only once.
In the postgame locker room, DeRozan said it was defense, not offense, that decided the game.
"We had to key the defense in consistently throughout the second half if we wanted to be successful, and that's what we did," he explained. "We took advantage of that and played aggressive on the offensive end."
The second-half stats bear that out. As the Raptors started getting more stops after halftime, DeRozan got on a roll offensively. He opened the night with 14 points (including 4-4 from the foul line) in the first half, but closed out with an 11-point third and 10-point fourth.
DeRozan drew contact at a faster clip, too. Eight of his 21 second-half points came from the stripe.
Toronto coach Dwayne Casey attributed his shooting guard's big night to some early frustration.
"I think he got frustrated in the first half. They were into him and I think he just made a conscious effort of taking things into his own hands, playing through contact, playing through their physicality."
That all may be true, but DeRozan has made a habit of big games against Washington this year. Prior to Friday, his season-high scoring was 34 points, also at the Wizards' expense.
He's averaging 29.7 points in three meetings (all wins) between the teams.
When asked what about playing Washington elevates his game, DeRozan didn't mince words.
"We got swept last year," he said.