Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan is doing things that haven't been accomplished in the NBA in 30 years, which is fitting since DeRozan is a type of throwback player. He also is invoking the name of Michael Jordan, which is the type of effort it will take for the Raptors to overthrow the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Coverage begins Tuesday night at 6:30 on FOX Sports Ohio
DeRozan was named the Eastern Conference's Player of the Week Monday after averaging 34.7 points and shooting 54 percent from the floor during Toronto's 3-0 week. DeRozan leads the league in scoring, averaging 34 points per game.
He is the first player to score at least 30 points in eight of his first nine games to start a season since Jordan did it during the 1986-87 season. DeRozan is doing it with a flurry of drives and mid-range jumpers and very few 3-pointers.
“He's playing at an All-Star level,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “Getting bumped, getting hit, still finishing the play. He's playing an old man's game with physicality. The game has slowed down for him and the key is he's converting those plays.”
DeRozan's weekly award from the league ends LeBron James' streak. James won the first two weekly awards of the season in the East and remains an imposing road block to the Raptors, who lost to James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games in last season's conference finals.
The two best teams in the Eastern Conference in 2015-16 meet again Tuesday in Cleveland for already the second time this season. The Cavs beat the Raptors last month at Air Canada Centre. Now the defending champions might be even better than they were last season.
Cleveland has made at least 10 3-pointers in every game this season, breaking a record set by the Houston Rockets two years ago. While it's early, the Cavaliers are on pace to make more 3-pointers than any team in history — and coach Tyronn Lue still isn't completely happy.
“I think we can shoot better,” Lue said. “It's been sporadic.”
Mike Dunleavy, acquired from the Chicago Bulls over the summer, is off to a terrible start shooting 3-pointers. A career 37-percent 3-point shooter, Dunleavy is making just 27 percent of them (7 of 26) this season. Lue, however, isn't concerned with Dunleavy's struggles.
“He's a great shooter and he's always been over his career,” Lue said. “You come from playing 32, 34 minutes and being a starter and now you're coming off the bench when you're playing 16 minutes a game, it's tough to try to find your rhythm.”
The Raptors didn't win any games at Quicken Loans Arena last season — including the three during the playoffs. They lost the series when James dominated Game 6 at Air Canada Centre. That's why Toronto players have already discussed the importance of home-court advantage over the Cavaliers in the playoffs.
In order to get there, the Raptors likely will have to win a game in Cleveland at some point. They learned how difficult it can be to beat a motivated James in the postseason.
“He just took over. He took it to another level,” Casey said of James. “Mentally, physically, defensively, offensively, he wasn't going to let them lose. He can have an imprint on the game in whatever way that night calls for.”