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Gay leads Raptors to win in debut

The SportsXchange

TORONTO -- It did not take long for Rudy Gay to feel at home with the Toronto Raptors after they acquired him in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies.

He arrived in Toronto on Friday morning and gave a press conference in the afternoon, then took the court in the evening and came off the bench to score 20 points as the Raptors defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 98-73.

It didn't seem to matter to Gay that he had a cram course earlier in the day on the Raptors' system and then went out and led them in scoring as they ended a three-game losing streak before a crowd of 19,800 at Air Canada Centre on Friday.

"He is one of the best in the league at getting his own shot," Raptors' head coach Dwane Casey said. "He frees up DeMar (DeRozan), Kyle (Lowry) and everyone else so they can get their shot. Teams just cannot concentrate on DeMar now, which will open him up."

"It was just good to get a win, get out there and play basketball," Gay said. "It's been so many other things going on, this was my first time actually having to go through it. It just felt good."

It was a dismal night for the Clippers, who needed to shoot 47.1 percent from the field in the fourth quarter to increase their percentage to 34.7 for the game. Toronto shot 46.9 percent.

"We didn't execute very well, we didn't shoot very well," Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We struggled in a lot of area and the bottom line is we got outworked."

Forward Amir Johnson, who was battling the flu, scored 19 points and grabbed a season-best 16 rebounds that also equaled a career best.

"Today, I was kind of sick and just pushed through it," Johnson said. "The first couple of minutes I couldn't really breath but just fought through it. Everybody played well together."

DeRozan also scored 19 points and John Lucas added 17 from off the bench. Aaron Gray had a season-best 12 rebounds to go with seven points.

"I thought Amir and Aaron did a great job of spacing," Casey said. "Kyle (Lowry had eight assists) did an excellent job of finding people and making sure they were in the right place. But it goes back to our defense. With the defense clicking the way it was, it allows us to run the lanes."

Blake Griffin scored 17 points and had nine rebounds for the Clippers, who were short-handed because of injury and suspension. Jamal Crawford scored 14 after coming off the bench, Caron Butler had 12 and Eric Bledsoe 10 for the Clippers, who had won their previous two games.

"We just came out with poor energy," Griffin said. "We were in it for a while, then missed some shots and didn't get stops. When you miss stops and don't get shots it makes it extremely tough. They played well, they played extremely well. We have to do a better job."

The Clippers, the Pacific Division leaders, trailed the Raptors by 27 points entering the fourth quarter. They scored the first four points of the fourth but Toronto answered with a 3-pointer from Lucas, who was 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. When Lucas hit a 3-pointer with 4:46 to play in the game, the Raptors led 87-59 and a 3-pointer by Gay made the lead 31 points.

The Raptors (17-30) led by 16 entering the second half and bumped that to 18 when Johnson scored the first two points of the third quarter on a layup. Landry Fields' running bank shot had the Raptors ahead 53-32 with 8:03 left in the third. The lead was 64-41 after Johnson converted a pair of free throws with 3:27 left as the Clippers (34-14) continued their struggles as they were shooting 31 percent from the field. The Raptors' lead reached 26 on a 3-pointer by Lucas.

The Clippers were playing so poorly that they had a shot-clock violation with five seconds left in the third quarter, which ended with the Raptors leading 72-45 after a 3-pointer by Gay at the buzzer.

Gay, who was obtained in the trade that was made on Wednesday, entered the game to cheers with 5:10 to play in the first quarter. After making one of two free throws, he made his first field goal as a Raptor on a spectacular alley-oop dunk on a pass from DeRozan with 2:56 to play in the quarter to give the Raptors a 16-10 lead. He scored seven points in the quarter which ended with the Raptors leading 22-17.

"It felt great to be accepted like I did today," Gay said of the crowd reception. "It just makes you want to play hard. Fans don't really understand their participation, coming out and supporting us, how much it means to us. DeMar's a great player, he's by far the best two-guard I ever played with."

The Raptors scored the final eight points of the first half to lead 46-30 as the Clippers shot 29 percent from the field.

Del Negro felt that the second quarter, when the Clippers were outscored 24-13, was the turning point.

"They jumped on us, got a lead," he said. "We took too many jump shots. We had some guys out, we had to play some guys extra minutes. Right now our rotations are a little bit different, the lineups out there are a little bit different, just trying to manage the season as best we can, manage this road trip with the injuries we have."

Notes: Gay did not start Friday's game to give him time to adjust to the Raptors' system. He was acquired along with center Hamed Haddadi for point guard Jose Calderon, who was moved to the Detroit Pistons with forward Ed Davis. "When I heard about the trade it was a whirlwind," Gay said before Friday's game. "I've been in Memphis for six and a half years. The first thing I did was call Kyle Lowry, who is like a brother to me. And he said, 'If you come here we can do some big things.' From then on I was comfortable with the whole situation. I just want to come here and try to be the hard working veteran I think this team needs." ... Center Jonas Valanciunas returned to the Raptors' lineup Friday after missing 18 games with a fractured metacarpal in his right ring finger. ... The Clippers were again without point guard Chris Paul (bruised right kneecap). Also missing were guard Chauncey Billups (left foot tendinitis), forward Trey Thompkins (left knee bone bruise) and forward Matt Barnes, who was suspended for one game for striking the Minnesota Timberwolves' Greg Stiemsma in the neck in the second quarter on Wednesday. ... The Raptors are home to the Miami Heat on Sunday. ... The Clippers visit the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
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