The Toronto Raptors have lived a charmed life this season, jumping out to a 13-2 start as the best team in the East while others have floundered.
And by others, I mean LeBron James and the 7-7 Cavaliers, for one.
The problem with a surprise team like the Raptors is that a run like that can come to an end quickly. On Friday night, the first warning sign arrived.
The Raptors lost 106-102 to the Cavaliers and guard DeMar DeRozan went down hard with an injury.
The problem will be how severe that injury really is for the Raptors' star.
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The team called it a groin injury and he didn't return, but DeRozan looked like he was in considerable pain as he fell to the floor.
How bad is it?
DeRozan has been the glue that holds together the Raptors over recent seasons, and – according to the Toronto Sun – he has missed just 14 games.
“It was obvious from that moment that this was more than just a little thing,” they wrote.
“Officially the injury is a strained groin. Whether it’s long-term or short-term or something in between will be determined over the next few days. … DeRozan was kicking the floor in pain as the Raptors’ training staff made their way to the all-star. He stayed down for a few minutes and, when he got up, it was slowly and with some help. He went directly to the locker room and was gone by the time the game ended.”
That doesn't sound good.
The question is whether DeRozan will be with the team as they head West for three games, starting Sunday against the Lakers. They return to Toronto to host LeBron James and the Cavs on Dec. 5.
What will the impact be?
The obvious answer is that a significant injury to DeRozan is a crushing blow to the Raptors and their league-best record.
Sportsnet, however, believes the Raptors have enough depth that it won't be.
Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams filled in for DeRozan and actually played better than DeRozan had before the injury.
“I think we’ve got one of the best – I say this in a humble way – benches in the league, so somebody else has to step up,” Vasquez told Sportsnet.
“I don’t see why Lou can’t step in, or myself, or James [Johnson]. … I think we are guys that can step up and do the job.”
As for DeRozan's coach, he said what he had to say. The season will go on, so will the team.
“It’s some big shoes to fill,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told Sportsnet. “But the next guy has got to be ready to step up and take up the slack.”
DeRozan's teammate Kyle Lowry agreed.
“We gotta play, it’s next man up,” Lowry said. “It’s a team. It’s not about one guy, it’s about every individual. So if anybody goes down, the next guy has gotta step up.”