TORONTO — Serge Ibaka will make his Toronto Raptors debut Friday night against the Boston Celtics at the Air Canada Centre.
The power forward was obtained from the Orlando Magic in a trade on Feb. 14 but it was decided that he would not play the next night when the Raptors narrowly defeated the Charlotte Hornets in their final game before the All-Star Game break.
Ibaka is not the newest Raptor, however. The Raptors acquired forward P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline Thursday from the Phoenix Suns for forward Jared Sullinger and two second-round draft choices. It is a return for Tucker, in a way, since the Raptors selected him in the second round of the 2006 draft.
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Both acquisitions improve the Raptors defensively, which is an area of need since they headed into the All-Star break tied for 10th in points allowed (104.3) and 19th in defensive rating (109)
The Celtics, who are second in the Eastern Conference, did not make a deal.
“When you’re in position where you’re playing at a pretty good level, you don’t anticipate much change,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said as the deadline approached.
The Celtics have won 11 of the past 13 games.
The Raptors, who were second in the Eastern Conference, have lost 11 of their past 16 games and it became apparent changes were needed.
Ibaka had his first practice with the Raptors on Wednesday as the team prepared for the final 25-game stretch of the regular season that starts against Boston.
“We have to learn each other.” Ibaka said.
During the break, Ibaka has studied a video of the Raptors’ offensive playbook.
“It’s like home work,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “But it’s different when you get here on the court, timing, having to understand it, speed and quickness, reading situations. But again, he was a quick learner. We tried to put him in comfortable situations. I went back and studied film when he was in Oklahoma City, Orlando to get a feel for where he likes the basketball, the things he did defensively and what we can incorporate.?
It was not certain when Tucker would be available to join the Raptors. He came into his own as a player in Phoenix. After being told about the trade, he said: “I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a tough day for me.”
Toronto expects forward Patrick Patterson to return Friday from a bruised left knee.
Celtics president Danny Ainge talked Thursday about balancing the present and the future, especially since the team may get the top overall pick in this year’s draft as part of the 2013 trade of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets, who own the league’s worst record.
“We’re trying to upgrade our team,” Ainge said. “But it is a delicate balance of short-term goals and long-term goals. Obviously both are very important. But like I said, we’re very excited about where we are on a long-term basis.”
Ainge also said he likes the current Celtics team: “I am excited, actually,” he said. “I was watching practice today and I was very excited by what I saw. I’m not disappointed. Not at all. I can’t wait to get back out on the road and start scouting and getting ready for the draft and continue to watch the NBA and get ready for the playoffs. I’m very optimistic and very excited about the rest of the year.”
Celtics shooting guard Avery Bradley, who has been out with a strained Achilles tendon, is not expected to play Friday. He has missed 16 straight games and 20 of the last 21.
“Avery practiced about a third of the practice today, which was about what our medical staff determined was the appropriate progression,” Stevens said. “(Bradley) told me afterwards he felt really good.”
Boston rookie forward Jaylen Brown, who has missed the past three games with a right hip strain, will be ready to play in Toronto.
Toronto has won two of three games between the teams this season.
Kyle Lowry scored 34 points in Toronto’s 101-94 win in Boston on Dec. 9, DeMar DeRozan scored 41 in Toronto’s 114-106 home win on Jan. 10 and Isaiah Thomas scored 44 in Boston’s 109-104 home win on Feb. 1.