Toronto Raptors win season opener 93-87 over Boston Celtics
TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors weren't about to let their season opener slip away.
Rudy Gay poured in 19 points as the Toronto Raptors pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Boston Celtics 93-87 on Wednesday to usher in a new NBA season.
Amir Johnson and DeMar DeMar had 13 points apiece, while Kyle Lowry had 10 points and eight assists, and Jonas Valanciunas grabbed 11 rebounds to go with eight points.
Boston's Jeff Green had 26 points to lead all scorers, while Brandon Bass added 17.
The Raptors had squandered a 16-point third quarter lead and the game was tied 71-71 with a quarter left to play.
But Johnson stepped back to drain a three-pointer to put Toronto up by four points with 6:21 to play, bringing the capacity crowd of 20,155 at the Air Canada Centre to its feet and injecting some late-game life into the Raptors.
DeRozan scored with two-and-a-half minutes to play to give Toronto a 10-point lead. Former Raptor Kris Humphries scored to pull the Celtics within five with under a minute to go, but that was as close as Boston would come.
Canadian Kelly Olynyk, who was born in Toronto and moved to Kamloops, B.C., made his NBA regular-season debut, finishing with two points in 16 minutes for the Celtics.
The night began with the traditional season-opening glitz and glamour. Players marched across a brightly lit stage to introductions while a drum line played. Gay took the mic and addressed the crowd, saying "Thanks for your support. Go Raps!"
Jon Bon Jovi sat courtside sandwiched between Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., and Larry Tanenbaum, MLSE's chairman. Former Raptors fan favourite Morris Peterson was also at the game.
The Raptors are hoping this is the season they finally end their playoff drought. They went 34-48 last season to miss the post-season for the fifth straight year, then Leiweke virtually cleaned house in the front office, most notably hiring Masai Ujiri to replace Bryan Colangelo as general manager.
Management made few changes to the product on the floor, though, as all five starters Wednesday -- Lowry, DeRozan, Gay, Johnson and Valanciunas -- were back from last year, compared to this night last season when three of the starters were brand new.
The Raptors had beaten Boston twice in the pre-season, winning six of seven exhibitions. The Celtics, who dealt veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn in the off-season, went just 2-6.
The Celtics led for the entire first quarter, despite a strong start for Valanciunas -- he hauled down six rebounds in the frame -- and Boston took a 26-21 lead into the second.
Ross drained a three-pointer with two seconds left in the first half to cap a 12-0 Raptors run late in the second quarter and Toronto led 49-37 at halftime.
Johnson took flight for a big dunk early in the third to put Toronto up by 16 points, but thanks in large part to 10 points by Bass, the Celtics pulled even, Bass scoring on a putback dunk to send the game into the fourth quarter tied 71-71.
A win over Boston was key to Toronto's early season schedule, which is gruelling once again. Among the Raptors' early opponents: two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat, plus Houston, Memphis, Chicago and Brooklyn.
NOTES: The Celtics were without Jared Sullinger, sitting a one-game team suspension for his role in an altercation with his girlfriend that led him to face domestic violence charges. . . . The Raptors' replacement mascot Stripes made his debut. The Raptor, who'd been with the team since its inaugural season, ruptured his Achilles tendon at an appearance during training camp. . . The Raptors have their first back-to-back on the road Friday and Saturday, when they play the Hawks in Atlanta, followed by the Bucks in Milwaukee. They host the defending NBA champion Heat on Tuesday.