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Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan shows he can rise to playoff occasion

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TORONTO - After a wobbly playoff debut, Raptors star DeMar DeRozan returned to attack mode for Game 2 against the Brooklyn Nets.

The 24-year-old Toronto guard had just 14 points in Game 1, with eight of those coming from the free throw line, in a 94-87 loss to visiting Brooklyn that saw DeRozan miss 10 of 13 shots.

On Tuesday, a different DeRozan took the court. As he approached the Nets basket, it was if his brain was in overdrive as it diagrammed possible plays. The possibilities seemed endless — dish off to a teammate, drive to the basket, pull back and take a shot.

The Raptors will need more of the same Friday when the series switches to Brooklyn's Barclays Center for Game 3.

While Toronto preaches a team approach, the Raptors know good things happen when DeRozan is rolling.

"I was just trying to feed him," Toronto guard Greivis Vasquez said of Game 2. "I was just trying to get him the ball — it was just 'Go, go. We need you to get confidence.'"

Mission accomplished.

DeRozan finished with 30 points, 17 of which came in the fourth quarter when he made four of five shots and nine of 11 free throws. He finished the game on five fouls, hanging his head at one point at the end of the bench while his teammates huddled during a timeout.

But he was on point when he returned to action in the 100-95 win.

DeRozan's fourth-quarter output was just two points off the club playoff record of 19, set in 2001 by Vince Carter against Philadelphia. Again and again, DeRozan answered the veteran Nets as they tried to claw their way back.

For coach Dwane Casey, DeRozan showed his maturity by taking the shots the defence was giving him rather than trying to force things.

"He's growing," said Casey. "He's still not a finished product. We've just seen the beginning of a guy becoming a star."

Tuesday's playoff performance was clearly a big step forward on DeRozan's young career path.

"He knows he can do it in a high-intensity situation," said guard Kyle Lowry.

"It just show he's growing," he added. "He's an all-star for a reason."

DeRozan's practice regimen includes a variety of difficult shots. He also lifts weights before each games, so he feels like he has the strength to hoist shots from all angles.

"If I feel I can get the shot off, I feel like it has a good chance of going in," DeRozan said.

It showed Tuesday. His scoring was of the spectacular variety, bringing the sellout crowd of 20,382 to its feet.

"You never know what kind of shot you're going to need to shoot at a certain time," he said.

Vasquez drove baseline at one point before firing the ball back to the six-foot-seven DeRozan, who attacked the basket, transferred the ball from his right hand to his left in the air and then dunked with authority,

"An unbelievable dunk," said the six-foot-six Venezuelan. "I dream about those dunks because I can't even dunk."

"He really deserves everything he gets, all the attention and all that stuff he gets because he's our franchise player, he's our best player," he added. "I think for him to do what he did (Tuesday) night was a really huge step to shut a lot people up — 'Don't talk about me because I've got it.'"

DeRozan, meanwhile, said the difference between Game 1 and 2 was he was more aggressive and decisive.

How important is DeRozan to the Raptors?

He led the team in scoring 42 times during the 2013-14 regular season. He was tied for ninth in league scoring (22.7), fourth in minutes (38.4), fourth in made free throws (519) and fifth in free throws attempted (630).

In Brooklyn, Toronto will continue to look to take advantage of its speed and athleticism while hoping to maintain its advantage on the boards.

Casey is also looking for a better start to the third quarter, rather than waiting for the fourth to kick into the high gear.

"We are the top fourth-quarter team in the league but we can't wait until the fourth quarter in the playoffs," he said. "We've got to come out hard-charging out of the locker-room."

The series marks Toronto's first playoff action since 2008.

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