The Associated Press
DETROIT–In the final seconds of both regulation and overtime, DeMar DeRozan pushed the ball up the court and went straight toward the basket.
The first time, he threw down a dunk for the game’s most spectacular highlight.
Then a few minutes later, DeRozan had the ball in his hands again in a similar spot.
“I knew they would be more prone to collapse on me the next time,” the Toronto star said.
So with Detroit’s defenders cutting off his path to the rim, DeRozan made a simple pass to Fred VanVleet, whose tie-breaking jumper with 1.1 seconds to go gave the Raptors a 121-119 victory over the Pistons last night.
DeRozan finished with 42 points in the overtime win, and Toronto became the first NBA team to clinch a playoff berth this season.
“We need to be hardened and face some adversity,” noted Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey.
“Tonight was one of those tests.
“I think each game we go into, everybody’s going to give us their best shot,” he added.
Toronto trailed by 17 in the second quarter but was able to outlast Blake Griffin and the Pistons in a back-and-forth thriller.
With the score tied late in overtime, Detroit’s Reggie Bullock missed an open three-pointer with about five seconds left on the shot clock.
The rebound went to DeRozan, who rushed into the frontcourt and got into the lane, where a couple defenders stood in his way.
He passed to VanVleet in the left corner.
Until then, VanVleet was 1-for-9 from the field, but his shot from just inside the three-point line gave Toronto the lead.
“To win the game at the end there makes me be able to sleep a little bit better at night,” VanVleet said.
Griffin, who had tied the game with less than a second remaining in regulation, missed a three-pointer on the final possession of overtime.
The Eastern Conference-leading Raptors now have won six-straight and 13-of-14.
Detroit has lost four in a row and 10-of-12.
Toronto’s Serge Ibaka was ejected in the second quarter.
After Griffin’s three-point play put Detroit ahead 112-111 with 10.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Toronto was out of time-outs.
But the Pistons lost DeRozan near mid-court and he went all the way in for a dunk with 4.6 seconds left–drawing a foul in the process.
“We didn’t do what we were supposed to do. I’m not going any further than that,” Pistons’ coach Stan Van Gundy said.
“I’m not going to throw someone under the bus but we didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”
DeRozan cut a finger but he made the free throw to put the Raptors up by two.
Griffin scored inside with 0.9 seconds left to tie it.