Newest Raptor still waiting to play
Serge Ibaka sat out last night’s match against the Charlotte Hornets
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.
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