BOSTON - The ailing Raptors got some reinforcements back in the lineup Wednesday.
James Johnson returned from an ankle injury and head coach Dwane Casey opted to start him at small forward for the first time this season, over Rasual Butler.
As well, Aaron Gray made his Raptors regular-season debut after being cleared by doctors.
Casey said he went to Johnson in order to help end a five-game losing skid, something that didn’t work out.
“Anytime you’re struggling the way we are right now, you’re trying to find a spark,” he said.
“Change rhythm, change spark, change disposition … when you lose five in a row you’re searching for something.”
Johnson said his ankle was feeling great after he took Monday’s game off in Atlanta.
He looked forward to trying to slow down Paul Pierce and did a very good job of it, limiting the Celtic to eight points on 3-of-10 shooting.
“Paul Pierce is an animal, I’m going to have to guard him it’s going to have to be a tag team with me and Rasual Butler. We’re going to get the job done,” Johnson said before the game.
“We’re going to have to be aggressive on him to get him tired, he’s going to get us tired.”
To go with his solid defence, Johnson only had four points on 1-of-7 shooting and two rebounds.
Meanwhile, Gray, a sturdy 7-foot, 270-pound centre was a welcome addition in the middle.
Casey said Gray would help in several areas.
“Conditioning is going to be a concern but just his size his bulk, his screening, his rebounding, just his physical play,” Casey said.
One thing Casey doesn’t want to see from Gray is a lot of hacking.
“I would say (Gray provides) six hard fouls, but we’re giving up too many fouls in the first place,” he said.
Gray would finish the game with four rebounds and no points in 19 minutes.
“When you’re worried about your wind, your mind is a little slow as well. Was just trying to be physical, hit a few people. Missed some assignments, but that’s something I’ll be able to correct,” Gray said.
Casey also said he is targeting a Sunday return — with Friday being a slight possibility — for both Andrea Bargnani and Jerryd Bayless, who are able to do more each day as they work their way back from injury.