Carter had 25 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds left, to help the Raptors get off to their best start in franchise history with a 101-97 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.
“I didn’t know what to expect to be honest with you,” Carter said. “I started feeling better about this team in the last preseason game.”
The attendance of 13,863 was the smallest home crowd in the Raptors’ 10-year history. Toronto went 33-49 last season, missing the playoffs for the second straight year and Carter, a five-time All-Star, asked for a trade this summer.
“I know that’s going to be in the back of peoples minds, but I want people to really see that I love to play,” Carter said.
Carter scored nine points in the final 4:28, including the fadeaway 3-pointer that gave Toronto a 98-95 lead.
“That’s the Vince Carter that I know. That’s the Vince Carter that I remember,” teammate Morris Peterson told Carter after the game.
Zach Randolph had 33 points and 15 rebounds for the Trail Blazers. Randolph started the game despite missing the team flight to Toronto on Saturday. He was fined and had to pay his own way. He said he overslept after his alarm clock didn’t go off.
“We should have won this game,” Randolph said. “We have a better team than them. They just hit some big shots.”
Toronto led by nine at halftime, but Randolph scored 14 of Portland’s 28 points in the third quarter to help the Blazers cut the lead to four entering the fourth. Randolph’s short jumper gave Portland a 95-93 lead with 1:07 left, and Jalen Rose made a layup to tie it with 50 seconds remaining.
After Carter forced Nick Van Exel into an air ball, Carter faked a drive and made his 3-pointer over Van Exel to give Toronto the lead for good.
“That was an unbelievable shot,” new Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. “That’s why Vince makes All-Star teams and the fans love him, because he makes big shots like that.”
Toronto’s bench outscored Portland’s 40-21.
A Raptors’ PR official sang the national anthems after the scheduled singer didn’t show on time. The Raptors had recently changed the start from 1 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. … The Blazers’ plane left Portland at 8 a.m. Saturday, and Randolph said he woke up at 8:45 a.m. “The alarm clock didn’t go off,” Randolph said. “I can’t help it if the alarm clock doesn’t go off. Stuff like that happens. Hey, I’m here now.”