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Lewenberg: DeRozan shakes off nerves in first All-Star Game

Josh Lewenberg
2/17/2014 2:18:09 AM
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NEW ORLEANS - When DeMar DeRozan made his All-Star debut on Sunday, checking in for the first time at the outset of the second quarter, he immediately looked like he belonged.

It took 22 seconds for DeRozan to get on the board, taking a lob pass from Joakim Noah and converting the easy layup before knocking down his next two shots.

For the Raptors' fifth-year guard, this moment was one he had been dreaming about for a long time but to his credit, he never looked out of place.

"Honestly, I wasn't nervous at all," he told TSN.ca after scoring eight points in 15 minutes of action for the victorious Eastern Conference squad. "I thought I was going to be nervous before the game but as soon as I went out there I wasn't nervous at all."

"It didn't feel like there was any pressure, like you were playing in front of all these people. They just made it fun, honestly. I didn't have no jitters."

After a lackluster slate of Saturday night events, the big show did not disappoint. Combined, 318 points were scored - an All-Star record - with the East defeating the West by a score of 163-155. The frenetic pace fit DeRozan's game like a glove.

"All we do is get out and run, wings get out and run, push it," he said. "It's an opportunity to get fast-break dunks, layups, sorts of things like that so it fits well for a player like me."

The East overcame an 18-point deficit, closing out the night on a 10-0 run to win for the first time in four years. Their 163 points were the most scored in an All-Star Game.

DeRozan's All-Star experience has been surreal. From watching his young teammates Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross compete in the Rising Stars Challenge and the Slam Dunk Contest - both events that he has participated in himself - to sharing the bench with former a teammate and nine-time All-Star Chris Bosh on Sunday, he's had to pinch himself on more than one occasion.

It didn't hit him until Sunday evening, as he arrived at Smoothie King Center, walked in the locker room and saw a row of All-Star jerseys instead of his usual Raptors duds.

"There's only a select few that get to put on the All-Star jersey," he realizes.

That experience of being among them and gaining the respect that accompanies the All-Star tag - which he'll wear next to his name for the duration of his career and beyond - was far more valuable than the 15 minutes he logged in the game.

"It was a great experience, man," he said. "Just going out there and having fun with the league's best, to be in that same category is great."

It may have been his first appearance in the league's midseason classic, but the Raptors' leading scorer is determined not to make it his last.

"[I have to] work harder than I did this previous summer to be a better player," said DeRozan, who is averaging a career-best 22.4 points this season. "I can't slow down. Now I'm a target. Players are going to go at me and understand that I've got the All-Star next to my name. Just continue working, don't be complacent with anything and keep pushing."

Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving - a controversial selection when he was voted in as a starter by the fans last month - took home game MVP honours after scoring 31 points to go along with 14 assists. He was a perfect 11-for-11 from inside the three-point arch, many of those field goals were layups.

"How Kyrie makes his layups is amazing," DeRozan said of his Eastern Conference teammate. "You can't deny [him] when he gets to the basket; you can't play him a certain way because he can finish with either hand, off either leg and he's so creative with it. It was cool to see him go out and play."

Sunday was a night of broken records for both sides. Carmelo Anthony, who had 30 points for the East, connected on eight three pointers, most in an All-Star Game.

Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin had 38 points apiece for the West, coming just shy of Wilt Chamberlain's mark of 42. 10 of Griffin's All-Star Game record 19 field goals were dunks.

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