New­est Rap­tor still wait­ing to play

Serge Ibaka sat out last night’s match against the Char­lotte Hor­nets

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS -

TORONTO — The Toronto Rap­tors didn’t have the help of new­comer Serge Ibaka on Wed­nes­day night. Turned out, they didn’t need him.

Kyle Lowry scored 21 points as the Rap­tors roared back in the fourth quar­ter to beat the Char­lotte Hor­nets 100-95 on a roller­coaster night at Air Canada Cen­tre.

Norm Pow­ell added 17 points for the Rap­tors (33-24), who snapped a three-game los­ing skid and won for just the fifth time in 16 games. DeMarre Car­roll added 13 points, while Delon Wright added 11, Jonas Valan­ci­u­nas fin­ished with 11 re­bounds and 10 points, and DeMar DeRozan chipped in with 10 points.

Frank Kamin­sky led Char­lotte (24-32) with 27 points, while Kemba Walker added 24.

The slump­ing Rap­tors re­ceived re­in­force­ment Tues­day in the trade with Or­lando that brought Ibaka to town in ex­change Ter­rence Ross and a first-round pick in the up­com­ing draft. But Ibaka wasn’t ready to play Wed­nes­day.

Play­ing its last game be­fore a nine-day break, Toronto came out with plenty of en­ergy to take an early 14-point lead, but then things quickly went south. The Rap­tors im­ploded in the se­cond and third quar­ters and the Hor­nets turned their dou­ble-digit deficit into a 7558 lead to start the fourth quar­ter. The dis­grun­tled crowd ush­ered them off the floor with a smat­ter­ing of boos. Per­haps it was the push they needed. The Rap­tors came to life in the fourth, and when Lowry drilled a three-pointer with 7:11 left to play, it capped a 20-2 run that gave Toronto a one­point lead and had the fans out of their seats.

A bas­ket by rookie Jakob Poeltl made it a five-point Rap­tors lead be­fore Walker scored Char­lotte’s first field goal of the quar­ter with 3:13 to play to make a three-point game.

With 1:26 to play, Wright — wear­ing glar­ing tan­ger­ine sneak­ers — stole the ball and fin­ished with a bas­ket to put the Rap­tors back up by five, part of an im­pres­sive per­for­mance by the young Rap­tor who’s missed most of the sea­son with a shoul­der injury.

Ni­co­las Ba­tum drilled a three with 29 sec­onds left, but Car­roll squelched any Char­lotte come­back with a three of his own with seven sec­onds left.

Ibaka, wear­ing the team’s blue and white throw­back Husky warmup uni­form, ap­peared briefly on the court prior to the team in­tro­duc­tions.

He re­ceived cheers and the a few high fives be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing again.

It was a team de­ci­sion not to play Ibaka, be­cause of his latenight flight to Toronto, and a hec­tic day of re­quired med­i­cal tests and get­ting his bear­ings.

Be­cause of the NBA all-star break, Rap­tors fans won’t get to see him play un­til Feb. 24 when Toronto hosts the Bos­ton Celtics.

The Rap­tors raced out of the gate, shoot­ing 53 per cent in the first quar­ter and lead­ing 31-20 head­ing into the se­cond.

Notes: Lowry and DeRozan were pre­sented with their Eastern Con­fer­ence all-star jerseys be­fore the game.

FRANK GUNN, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Toronto Rap­tors cen­tre Lu­cas Nogueira, left, blocks Char­lotte Hor­nets guard Marco Be­linelli on his dunk at­tempt dur­ing first-half ac­tion in Toronto on Wed­nes­day. The Rap­tors won 100-95. LORI EWING

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