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DeRozan, Lowry as Raptors open new year with 104 94 win over Hornets

By Dhiren Mahiban




(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey credited his teams’ defensive play for their fourth-quarter turnaround on Friday night.

The Raptors erased an eight-point deficit heading into the final 12 minutes to defeat the Charlotte Hornets 104-94.

“First half, I didn’t recognize some of those straight-line drives they were making,” Casey said. “They were going by us way too easy, but we shored it up down the stretch. I thought Patrick Patterson and Bismack Biyombo came in and changed the game defensively. They set the tone with their physicality in that third and fourth.

“Somehow, some way we’ve got to get the offence clicking where our rhythm and timing is there and our passing, and cut down on the turnovers.”

Patterson shot 4 for 6 from three-point range and went 5 for 9 from the field for 14 points and six rebounds in the win. Biyombo, who was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Hornets in the off-season, added six points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Friday was Biyombo’s 14th game this season with 10 or more boards.

“I think we all did a good job finding away to play better defence, protecting the paint, rebounding the ball,” said Biyombo, who spent four seasons with the Hornets’ organization. “Of course I have to do my part, but each and every one of us in this locker-room has to do our job.”

DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with a game-high 23 points while shooting a perfect 7 for 7 from the line.

“We finally got into a rhythm, got a couple stops and that’s all we needed,” said DeRozan of the fourth quarter. “We just understood that if we got some stops and some big buckets, we would be right back in the game.”

Kyle Lowry shook off a slow first half to finish with 18 points and 11 assists. Lowry appeared to injure his ankle after landing awkwardly on Kemba Walker in the fourth but a team spokesman said post-game that Lowry was fine.

Jonas Valanciunas, playing in just his third game since returning from a broken bone in his left hand, had 10 points and 12 rebounds.

The Raptors (21-13) have won four of five to improve to 7-1 at home against the Eastern Conference this season.

Walker led the Hornets (17-15) with 18 points and five rebounds while Marvin Williams added 17 points.

“The second half they absolutely punished us on the glass,” said Williams. “I think that is where the game was lost. I think we had played hard up until that point, but they just wanted it a little more than we did.”

The Raptors opened the fourth on an 8-0 run _ led by a pair of threes from Patterson _ to erase the Hornets’ eight-point lead.

Walker led a 7-0 run to start the third quarter as Charlotte jumped out to a 62-55 lead early. The Hornets scored seven in the final minute of the third to take an 82-74 lead into the fourth.

With Lowry struggling from the field, Cory Joseph stepped off the bench and had six points in his first seven minutes of action to help the Raptors head into the break tied 55-55.

Walker and Williams each had four second-quarter points for Charlotte while Frank Kaminsky had nine points and four rebounds off the bench.

DeRozan led the way in the first, scoring 12 of the Raptors 29 as Toronto held a one-point lead after one.

Charlotte shot 42 per cent in the first quarter, but scored four points off of eight Toronto turnovers. Cody Zeller led the Hornets with a team-high seven points and four rebounds after 12 minutes.

Notes: Hornets guard Jeremy Lin (right ankle sprain) and forward Spencer Hawes (lower back tightness) missed Friday’s game. … Toronto recalled Anthony Bennett, Norman Powell and Delon Wright from the D-League’s Raptors 905 on Friday.

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