Raptors host Trail Blazers buoyed by new additions
TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors received instant results from their two newest players when they outworked the Boston Celtics 107-97 on Friday.
Serge Ibaka, obtained in a trade with the Orlando Magic on Feb. 14, and P.J. Tucker, acquired in a deal with the Phoenix Suns Thursday, both made big contributions to help offset the loss of All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry to a wrist injury.
Ibaka (15 points, seven rebounds) and Tucker (nine points, 10 rebounds) were making their Raptors’ debuts on limited practice time with their new team and it led to optimism about how much better they can make the Toronto as they become more familiar with their new surroundings.
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The process will continue Sunday when the Raptors (34-24) host the Portland Trail Blazers (24-33) at the Air Canada Centre.
The Trail Blazers also won their first game since the All-Star break with a 112-103 victory over the Orlando Magic as they try to make a run at a playoff spot.
The Raptors hope their new players will help them make an extended playoff run, perhaps even improving on last season when they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals.
“Obviously, we haven’t had a full practice with everybody, not everybody knows the plays,” said All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan after he scored a career-best 43 points Friday, 12 in the fourth quarter. “Everybody knows how to play basketball. Our main goal was to get stops and we got stops and just played, kept it simple.”
Asked about what his new teammates brought, DeRozan said: “Little bit of everything, especially in the second half. With Serge … spacing out the floor, I felt the lane being a lot more open. The toughness that P.J. brought in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter rebounding and bringing the physicality.”
“I didn’t (take part in the) shootaround, I didn’t do anything and to see the chemistry we had,” Tucker said. “Me and Serge didn’t know any plays. We were just kind of playing. I was just kind of a feel and we were working through it and talking. I feel with DeMarre (Carroll) it was amazing; it was really good. It was special and I think we can build something really nice.”
“We have a lot of potential to a lot of good things this year,” Ibaka said. “We need a couple more practices together to learn each other and then when Kyle (Lowry) comes back, it is going to be very good.”
Lowry injured his wrist in the final game before the All-Star break, a win over the Charlotte Hornets Feb. 15, and played in the All-Star Game. He tried shooting Friday and he was scratched from the game and the injury will be re-evaluated during the weekend.
The Raptors did have Patrick Patterson, who had missed six games with a left-knee contusion, and he scored 11 points off the bench Friday.