Ross scores 26 points, Raptors top Trail Blazers 102-79
Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan drives to the hoop past Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge (back) during first half NBA action in Toronto on Wednesday January 2, 2013. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Frank Gunn)
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, January 2, 2013 9:51PM EST
TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors tipped off the new year in the same fashion they bid farewell to 2012 -- by winning.
Terrence Ross poured in a career-high 26 points, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer to end the first half, to lead the Raptors 102-79 over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, the eighth victory in nine games for Toronto.
The game was also Toronto's first of the year, and the opener of a six-game homestand for a Raptors (12-20) team that was hammered by a particularly unkind early-season schedule.
DeMar DeRozan finished with 24 points, while Ed Davis had 19, Amir Johnson added 17 and point guards Jose Calderon and Kyle Lowry finished with 13 and nine assists respectively.
The rookie Ross drained six three-pointers, including the buzzer-beater that brought the crowd to its feet and saw him fall over backwards as he watched the ball fall through the hoop.
Damian Lillard had 18 to top the Blazers (16-15), who were coming off a 105-100 victory at New York the previous night.
The Raptors played with the same energy and unselfishness that saw them through such a strong December, and never trailed, leading by as much as 18 points in the first half before taking a 78-61 lead into the fourth quarter.
Toronto didn't let up in the fourth, and back-to-back threes by John Lucas and Ross gave the Raptors a 25-point lead with 1:06 left on the clock.
The Raptors shot 53 per cent on the night, and connected on 8-of-23 shots from beyond the arc.
The game was the ninth in a row the Raptors have played without forward Andrea Bargnani, who suffered a ligament tear in his right elbow in Toronto's last matchup with the Blazers, a 92-74 loss in Portland on Dec. 10. There's no timeline for his return but Raptors coach Dwane Casey said prior to the game the Italian centre would undergo another MRI before he would be cleared to play.
The game marked Jay Triano's first appearance back in Toronto since Canada's men's coach left the Raptors to become an assistant coach with the Trail Blazers. A large banner hung under a suite that read "Welcome Home Jay Triano!"
The Raptors will play 10 of their next 15 at home, and this key to this stretch at the Air Canada Centre, said Casey, will be continuing to play with the focus they showed in December.
"We've got to come out and compete, continue to compete, play the game the right way," Casey said. "The competition, the level of focus, the level of team play, the togetherness. . . I've seen it for the last two-and-a-half, three weeks, and that's something that's got to continue.
"Win, lose or draw, we've got to come out and play as a unit, and we've done that and that's what we're pushing for."
The Raptors raced out to a 10-0 lead in the first minute and a half of the game. DeRozan and Davis contributed 10 points apiece in the first quarter to help Toronto to a 25-17 lead heading into the second.
Toronto stretched their lead to 18 when Landry Fields converted a three-point play midway through the second. Ross's three at the buzzer sent the Raptors into the halftime dressing room with a 55-39 lead.
A pull up jumper by DeRozan put the Raptors up by 19 points with three minutes left in the third -- their biggest lead of the game to that point -- and they led 78-61 with one quarter left.