Valanciunas sets new career high with 32 points in opener; DeRozan drops 40

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Apr 18, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) celebrates after making a basket against the Indiana Pacers in game two of the first round of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that’s certainly one way to get a new season started.

Jonas Valanciunas scored a career-high 32 points on 10-of-15 shooting and 12-of-14 from the free-throw line, absolutely torching a large but mostly overmatched Detroit Pistons frontline.

DeMar DeRozan, meanwhile, opened the 2016-17 campaign a house afire on Wednesday, bludgeoning the Pistons with an unrelenting array of runners, drives, turnaround jumpers, and DeGree of DeFicculty spinning fades. It was equal parts incredible and brain-wrinkling.

Early in the third quarter, DeRozan had already joined Vince Carter (2003) and Alvin Roberson (1995) as the only Raptors to score 30 points in a season opener. Unsatisfied, he quickly pushed to 40 points, a new franchise record for opening night. After dropping a pedestrian 19 at the half, that was a 21-point third quarter, one that put the Pistons’ backs against the wall down 86-71 entering the fourth. That put him in elite company, joining Steph Curry and Kevin Durant as the only NBA players to score 40-plus on opening night since 2010.

From there, DeRozan took his normal start-of-fourth rest before resuming his attack on his own personal record. By game’s end, he had scored 40 points on 17-of-27 shooting, two short of his career high of 42 points, scored on March 30, 2015. It takes a lot out of a guy.

The Raptors’ single-game scoring record is 51, shared by Carter and one Terrence James Elijah Ross. DeRozan is amazing, but he’s no Ross, you know?

DeRozan also set a team record with his eighth consecutive opening-night start. Pascal Siakam also nearly reached the Raptors’ record book, grabbing nine rebounds, one shy of Valanciunas’ record for freshmen in an opener.

It was quite a night.

(And yes, I originally wrote this as a DeRozan post then had to pivot, hence the weird DeRozan focus under a Valanciunas headline. Apologies.)

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