TORONTO—The Toronto Raptors didn't have the help of newcomer Serge Ibaka last night.
Turned out they didn't need him.
Instead, an unlikely lineup of three point guards—Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, and Delon Wright—plus DeMarre Carroll and rookie Jakob Poeltl powered a fierce fourth-quarter comeback as the Raptors beat the Charlotte Hornets 90-85 on a roller-coaster night at Air Canada Centre.
“We were searching and we were searching and went to the 'Fountain of Youth,' and those guys came through and played their behinds off,” said coach Dwane Casey.
Lowry had 21 points to lead the Raptors (33-24), who snapped a three-game losing skid and own for just the fifth time in 16 games.
“Tonight, we needed that, just emotionally," Lowry said. "We emotionally needed that type of game.”
Norm Powell added 17 points, Carroll netted 13, Wright had 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 yesterday.
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 75-58 lead to start the fourth quarter.
The disgruntled crowd ushered the Raptors 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 one-point lead and had the fans out of their seats.
A basket by 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 go, 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.
Lowry and DeRozan now head to New Orleans to represent the East in the NBA all-star game. They were presented with their all-star jerseys prior to tip-off.
The rest of the team will enjoy a much-needed break before returning to practice next Wednesday.