Andrea Bargnani bounced back strong from his latest calf injury.
Bargnani scored 20 points and the Toronto Raptors beat the New York Knicks 107-88 in pre-season action Friday night before a sold-out Bell Centre crowd.
Bargnani, who was limited to 31 games last season because of calf strains, was back in the Raptors’ starting lineup after he was hurt his left calf once again Wednesday. He suffered a bruised calf and left in the third quarter of Toronto’s 104-101 win over Washington.
“Last game that was really just a hit, a hard hit on the calf, so we just decided it wasn’t worth it to keep playing limping,” Bargnani said. “So I took some therapy but it’s nothing like last year.”
Toronto won its third in a row to improve to 4-1, while dealing New York its first loss in three exhibition games in front of a lively crowd of 22,144.
“I want to say one thing about the fans here, I don’t know if we can bottle it up and take it back to Toronto but they were exciting fans, great fans, packed house, guys on the sideline were yelling at the referees and getting on them, and it felt like we were in an NBA city,” Raptors coach Dwayne Casey said. “A great arena, great building, hot building, and it was good for our guys to give them a hard-fought game.”
The Raptors outscored New York 30-20 in the third quarter and went up by 12 after Jose Calderon scored on a layup off a turnover 2:27 into the fourth to make it 84-72.
Kyle Lowry finished with 17 points for Toronto and Amir Johnson contributed 14.
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 24 points. Amar’e Stoudamire had 18 points in his pre-season debut after missing New York’s first two games because of pain in his left knee.
“It felt great to be back out there, and get back in the swing of things,” Stoudamire said. “It was a great feeling.”
Landry Fields faced New York for the first time since signing a three-year, US$18.7-million offer sheet with the Raptors in July, which the Knicks declined to match.
“There are some things we can clean up, and we will, defensively and offensively, and that’s what the pre-season is for,” Fields said.
Lowry hit a three-point shot at the buzzer to draw the Raptors even at 46-46 at half-time.
Toronto scored 16 points off the fast break compared to just two by New York.
“We just didn’t get into a transition offence, and that’s something that we can do easily,” Stoudamire said.
New York led 26-20 after the first quarter as Toronto got off to yet another slow start.
Stoudamire’s slam dunk gave the Knicks a 10-point lead at 38-28 in the second.
Lowry responded with a three-pointer to begin a nine-point Raptors run.
“I don’t know what it is, we probably start playing in the second and third quarter,” Casey said. “We’ve got to get these kinks out in exhibition. I thought our fight started after the first quarter, is when we decided to compete, and that is what this is all about. The NBA is about competitors.”
Lowry made his second start after missing the Raptors’ first three pre-season games because of a strained adductor muscle in his left leg.
Lithuanian rookie Jonas Valanciunas started for Toronto but took a seat on the bench 3:13 in after drawing a pair of early fouls. He finished with four points and 10 rebounds.