Solid debut for new Raptors

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

TORONTO - As debuts go, the Raptors had nothing to complain about with their newest additions.

Jerryd Bayless and Peja Stojakovic, each with just a practice and a shootaround under their belts, joined the Raptors’ three-game winning streak party seamlessly and helped extend it to four with a win over the visiting Philadelphia 76ers.

Head coach Jay Triano sounded a little concerned before the game when asked if working two new bodies into the mix at a time when things were going so well for the team would be a bit of a challenge.

The Raptors head coach paused and admitted he wasn’t sure what impact it would have or how much time he could even get the new bodies.

Turned out he had nothing to worry about. Once the Raptors jumped out to a big lead, it was actually easy to get the new guys a little run and both responded appropriately.

Bayless initially came in at the shooting guard spot with Leandro Barbosa backing up Jose Calderon at the point. He finished the night at the point, however, with 13 points in 15 minutes along with two assists and two rebounds.

Bayless was not shy looking for his own shot, but clearly was aware of keeping his teammates involved as well. It was a nice mix.

Stojakovic got just over six minutes of court time, but he made the most of that as well going two-for-three from the field for seven points, including 1-for-2 from three-point range.

What’s in a number

Bayless wore No. 4 in Portland, but he never considered it in Toronto.

In fact, when asked if anyone had warned him off the number, given how recently it was worn by Chris Bosh and the fresh wound his departure has left in the fan base, Bayless shook his head.

“No, I wasn’t even thinking about (4),” Bayless said before the game last night. “I wanted a fresh start.”

But No. 5?

Bayless took the three and the two from the No. 32

he wore in New Orleans and added them together.

Rewards for worker bees

Raptors fans are tremendously consistent in one aspect: Work hard and they love you no matter what. Reggie Evans got a taste of that last season but just a taste as he spent over half the season injured.

But the headband-wearing, rebound-machine is on the fans’ radar this season and for good reason. Evans had 10 boards after the first quarter and a franchise record 15 rebounds after a half. When the franchise record was announced over the public address, the fans once again showed Evans how much they appreciate the guy, who does all the dirty work.

When Evans got his 20th board of the night with a minute left and the fans again showed their appreciation, Evans waved his arms to get the fans even more worked up. They, of course, responded. Evans would get two more rebounds before the game ended for 22 for a new career high, one more than his old mark set when he was in Seattle against the Charlotte Bobcats back in 2005. Two more rebounds than that would have tied the franchise mark of 24 held by Donyell Marshall.

Evan was also a much-improved 4-for-7 from the free-throw line after coming in shooting just over 50% from the line.

The reason?

Amir Johnson. Evans said watching Amir guarantee and then make his late-game freebies in the Boston game on Sunday motivated him like never before. “How can you not be motivated by something like that?” Evans asked.

A tough job tougher

Evans would normally do battle with Elton Brand in a game with the Sixers. But with Brand suspended, Evans instead had to deal with Thaddeus Young and that meant defending him out to the three-point line and still getting back to the basket to handing the rebounding duties.

As physical as Brand can be, Evans said it was a tougher night for him without Brand in the game than it would have been had he been playing.

Couldn’t have been too hard, however. He did have a career high in rebounds.

The jinxed corner

There’s an empty locker area in the Raptors locker room. It’s empty because the Raptors are carrying just 14 players at the moment following the three for two deal that brought Bayless and Stojakovic to town. It would appear to be a coveted spot being on an end which brings a little more space. It also ensures the owner is never going to find himself landlocked by scrums surrounding both neighbours simultaneously.

No one wants it

Quietly it’s known as the locker of death, not for anything it has done, but for its past inhabitants.

Consider the only players who have used it are Fred Jones, Juan Dixon, Will Solomon and Marcus Banks. None of them lasted very long or played that much.

Banks was here over three seasons but made it into just 31 games. Jones and Solomon made it into 39 in their Toronto tenure while Dixon made it into 36 games while operating from the locker of death.


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