TORONTO — DeMar DeRozan had one of the finest post-season performances of his career to give the Toronto Raptors an historic 2-0 lead in their opening-round playoff series with Washington.
But it took some prompting from teammate Kyle Lowry for DeRozan to talk about his accomplishment.
DeRozan matched his career playoff-high with 37 points and the Raptors beat the Wizards 130-119 on Tuesday, taking a 2-0 series lead for the first time in history.
"DeMar is an unbelievable player, all-NBA, MVP-type calibre player," Lowry said. "Every year I've been with him he's just continued to get better. He's my friend, I don't care. He still sucks as a friend, but as a basketball player he's really good, just getting better every single year. If I'm not shooting the ball well, he held it down for our team."
Seated together at the post-game press conference, Lowry poked fun at DeRozan — backcourt bromance at its best.
"I just let the game come to me, flow of the game. I go based off that," DeRozan said, attempting to explain his game. "These days, it's not like I have to have the mindset of scoring 30 or 40 points. I go out there and play aggressive."
"You had 37, what do you mean?" scoffed Lowry.
"Listen to me," DeRozan said with a sideways glance. "Like I said, I didn't go out there planning to score 37 points. I went out there to be aggressive. And with my aggressiveness came those 37 points."
Asked if the game is slowing down him, DeRozan replied with a "Matrix" reference: "I'm like Neo now."
Lowry slammed a hand on the table in delight, saying "That was good. Wow."
"That's Morpheus," DeRozan said, pointing a thumb at his teammate.
Jonas Valanciunas had 19 points and 14 rebounds, C.J. Miles added 18 points, while Lowry had 13 and 12 assists. Delon Wright added 11 points, while Serge Ibaka chipped in with 10 for the Raptors, who had 13 three-pointers on the night.
John Wall had 29 points to top Washington, while Mike Scott added 20.
The Raptors clinched the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference for the first time this season with a franchise high 59 wins. They've lost just seven games at the Air Canada Centre.
But losers of numerous playoff openers themselves in past years, the Raptors were expecting a fierce pushback from Washington in Game 2.
Instead, the Wizards barely put up a fight in the first half as the Raptors sprinted out to a 22-point first-quarter lead, and smashed their franchise playoff records both for points in a quarter and half.
The Raptors' shooting went south in the third quarter as they missed all seven of their three-point attempts. The Wizards pulled to within 100-90 with one quarter to play in front of an increasingly nervous crowd that included Drake, CFL hall of famer Mike "Pinball" Clemons, and Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Scott and Ty Lawson and a pair of free throws from Wall made it a five-point game midway through the fourth against Toronto's second unit. But the Raptors' starters responded — a couple of key stops, a Miles three and a DeRozan jumper, and in less than a minute Toronto was back up by 10.
"Well, I liked the way the starters responded. Our second unit has gotta come in with a sense of urgency and some toughness that they've shown all year," said coach Dwane Casey, who turned 61 on Tuesday. "They had some good moments but not enough. Not enough. Not enough.
"I liked the way the starters came in. I liked the way Serge battled down the stretch. Kyle and DeMar did an excellent job. But we've gotta get some more guys to join the party."
The Raptors led by double digits the rest of the way, putting a punctuation on the victory with a thrilling play with 3:38 to play. DeRozan saved the ball going out of bounds, and Lowry threw up an alley-oop that Wright finished in thunderous fashion, to the roar from the crowd.
The series now moves to Washington for Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Sunday.
The Wizards don't seem worried.
"Naw, I wouldn't say (we're in) trouble," Wall said. "We have to definitely make adjustments, they're a team that's going to be hungry coming into Game 3 trying to take full advantage of that.
"We're down 2-0, we're the team that's in the hole, we're the team that's desperate, but we have a lot of confidence. We're not down on ourselves at all."
The Raptors had opened with a 114-106 victory in Game 1, the first time Toronto had won a playoff opener since 2001.
The Raptors had seven threes — from six different players — en route to a post-season franchise record 44 first quarter points. Rookie OG Anunoby had another solid start, and early in the quarter forced a Beal air ball and then calmly drilled a three on the Raptors' next trip down the floor. Toronto took a 44-27 lead into the second.
Washington pulled to within 14 points a couple of times in the second quarter, but each time the Raptors squashed any hopes of a Wizards run. Miles led the way with three threes and 11 points in the frame, and Toronto took a 76-58 lead into the halftime break, breaking their franchise record of 63 points scored versus Miami in 2016.
The Raptors were outscored 32-24 in the third quarter.