The San Antonio Spurs are fresh off of their one and only visit to Scotiabank Arena and DeMar DeRozan showed out in his only appearance back in Toronto.
It's been close to a year and a half since DeRozan was shipped off to San Antonio in exchange for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, but the DeRozan the Raptors saw was different than the one that left.
That is due in large part to the role he now plays offensively, as Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich continues to find new ways to get the best out of his team.
DeRozan controlled the game against his former team, going for a game-high 28 points to go with eight rebounds, four assists and two steals in a much-needed win for the Spurs.
Over San Antonio's last 10 contests, DeRozan is averaging 27.3 points, 5.8 assists and 5.1 rebounds on an astounding 63.4% shooting from the field. DeRozan has put up big scoring numbers over stretches in the past, but the shooting efficiency is what stands out the most.
The secret to his recent success? Popovich has essentially turned DeRozan into a mini Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Before you have a heart attack, we're not saying that DeRozan IS the reigning league MVP. It's just that the Spurs are using DeRozan in a similar way as the Bucks use Antetokounmpo - space the floor with shooters to allow him to dominate in the midrange and painted area.
How DeRozan and Antetokounmpo score inside the arc does look inherently different, but the principles are the same. With DeRozan's ability to knock down the midrange jumper seemingly at will, surrounding him with shooters has only given him more space and more chances to attack one-on-one rather than face a wall of defenders whenever he makes a move towards the basket.
According to NBA Stats, the Spurs' starting lineup of DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Trey Lyles, Dejounte Murray and Bryn Forbes has an offensive rating of 126.6 and a true shooting percentage of 65.0%, both of which are league-best marks over the last 10 games. The four other starters who surround DeRozan all shoot at least 35% from three this season and have been red-hot over the last 10 games from 3-point range.
The biggest change is that Aldridge, who shot just 1.7 3-pointers per contest prior to the last 10 games, is taking more from long range. Aldridge has seemingly turned into what Brook Lopez has for the Bucks overnight, going from a reluctant 3-point shooter to letting it fly from the land beyond.
That coupled with the rest of the Spurs feeling comfortable from downtown has unleashed DeRozan.
It's allowed him the space to make plays like this:
The Raptors let their former teammate get the best of them in their one matchup in Toronto. As if seeing him in black and silver wasn't awkward enough, he launched his new Giannis-style approach, to make the difference in the outcome of the game.
DeRozan is really starting to hit his stride during this portion of the season as he looks to keep the Spurs' 22-consecutive playoff appearances streak alive.
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.