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On DeRozan Island, DeMar is getting the pineapple first when it matters most

DeRozan's offensive skills and late-game heroics are forcing defenses to make a tough call between letting him isolate and giving him an open teammate.

SAN ANTONIO — DeMar DeRozan has been playing some of his best basketball in a Spurs uniform, and it couldn't come at a better time as San Antonio makes a push for the playoffs.

He scored 32 points and added 8 assists and 7 rebounds in a win over the Pelicans that made it very difficult for New Orleans to catch the Spurs this season, taking over down the stretch and icing the game with a side-step mid-range jumper.

San Antonio's closer was asked if he was surprised that other teams don't double him in those situations, and he provided an all-time great quote equal parts wise and confident.

“If you double I'll find my teammates just as well, but if you want to stay on the island with me, I’m going to be the one to get the pineapple first… whatever the hell that means,” he said with a grin.

The pineapple bit is obviously a hilariously accurate artistic portrayal of his isolation scoring. He still isn't much of a three-point shooter, but he hasn't needed that to carve defenses up in simple pick-and-rolls, post-ups, and isolation plays.

The NBA's stats website says he takes three isolation possessions per game, and at 1.23 points per attempt, he's the most dangerous iso player in the league at that volume.

His offensive game is so technically sound, so probing and deceptive that he often leaves defenders with no choices other than fouling him or giving him an open shot.

Per Cleaning the Glass, DeRozan draws fouls on just about 20% of his shot attempts, which puts him in the 99th percentile at his position. He's got a deep bag of tricks to fool defenders with, and no matter how much film is out there, players of all experience levels still bite on his pump fakes and reach in as he rips through on his way to the basket.

Throw in a screener of any size, and it gives DeRozan an opportunity to attack downhill. It forces help defenders to rotate, and if they stick to the screener he can get to his spots with ease. If the help comes from anywhere, DeMar is in the middle of the best passing season of his career. He's the only guy in the NBA this year with seven or more assists and two or fewer turnovers per game.

Check out this play, where DeRozan gets a full head of steam after Jakob Poeltl sets a screen at half court. He beats both defenders and hits the jets into the painted area, drawing attention from two more defenders and leaving a man open in each corner. He zipped it to Luka Samanic, who finished an impressive dunk.

The pick-and-roll can also force a switch, and with DeMar, it doesn't matter if he's smaller or bigger -- he can take advantage either way. Here, he draws Zion Williamson and attacks with his quickness advantage, getting him out of position, getting into his chest, and getting the and-1 at a critical moment. 

The Spurs also give DeRozan a ton of "pistol" screens to start possessions. When the defense is switching, a guard will set a screen on the side, and DeRozan drives to the sideline. This immediately gives him a post-up opportunity against a smaller defender. He can typically abuse that matchup for a paint bucket, an unblockable jumper, free throws, or a pass to an open teammate.

Put all of DeRozan's high-level offensive skills together, and it's no surprise that he gets the ball in clutch situations for this Spurs team. He's the star, the engine, the bus driver there to take the kids home. When the game is on the line and the ball is in his hands, his teammates, coaches, and fans expect that he'll make the right play.

Clutch time is defined as under five minutes left in the game with the score differential at five points or less. DeRozan is tied for second in the league this year with 118 points in those situations, shooting 46% from the floor.

If the New Orleans game was the most important win of the year, the Washington Wizards game was the most exciting. DeRozan came up big late again, finishing with 37 and 10. In the final 25 seconds, he crossed over and pulled up from the top of the key, hitting a shot the NBA later said he was fouled on.

With a chance to win, he attacked his old friend Russell Westbrook, got to his spot at the elbow, spun and faded for the win -- and it jiggled out. 

It didn't fall, but it looked like it should have. In the overtime, DeRozan created more free throws and found his teammates when the defense keyed in on him. The Wizards defenders didn't want to be on DeRozan Island anymore, and as promised, he found his teammates. Keldon Johnson made a pair of baskets attacking from the corners after DeMar broke the defense down, and the Spurs secured a much-needed win.

DeRozan's shot creation for both himself and others is top-notch, and when it's time for the Spurs to make a winning play, he's the guy everyone wants making it. 

Defenses can double and try to stop him from getting a layup or open shot from his spots, but then he'll just make the right pass. And if you leave a defender on DeRozan Island with scarce Piña Colada resources, he will most likely wind up in a blender.

When asked about his now-iconic metaphor after the Wizards win, he confirmed that it was straight from his brain. He said he didn't have plans to make any merchandise, but he'd wear a shirt if someone made one.

Within hours he had inspired a talented fan and spoken it into existence, highlighting the respect and admiration that the San Antonio faithful have for him.