His tenure in Toronto may be just 10 games old, but Rudy Gay is making Raptors fans forget all about the players he replaced.
The new swingman poured in 17 of his 32 points in the third quarter to lift Toronto to a 100-98 victory over the visiting New York Knicks on Friday, giving the Raptors their sixth win in seven outings.
The Raptors are 7-3 since the deal that brought Gay to Toronto from Memphis three weeks ago.
"You can give him the ball, he's a guy who can get that big bucket for you, he's a guy who can shoot over the defence and make plays, he has the ability to make those shots," said point guard and Gay's good friend Kyle Lowry. "He doesn't worry about making or taking those shots, he thinks he's going to make them all."
Lowry wasn't too shabby either, doling out seven assists and scoring 15 points including a key bucket with 29 seconds left that saw him drive past former defensive player of the year Tyson Chandler. DeMar DeRozan added 18 points for Toronto (23-33), Amir Johnson finished with 12, John Lucas chipped in with 10, and Jonas Valanciunas grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
Carmelo Anthony scored 32 to top the Knicks (32-20), who dropped their fourth straight decision. J.R. Smith added 19, while Amare Stoudemire finished with 14.
The Raptors played a day after they were relatively quiet on the NBA trade deadline, acquiring Sebastian Telfair as insurance at the point guard position. But Toronto did their major dealing three weeks earlier when they acquired Gay from Memphis in the trade that sent Jose Calderon to Detroit and Ed Davis to Memphis — and a move that GM Bryan Colangelo referred to as "franchise altering" earlier Friday.
"Down the stretch, I just thought Rudy put us on his back and carried us," said coach Dwane Casey.
The Raptors led by as much as 13 points and were up 79-70 heading into the final quarter in a game that had seen 13 lead changes to that point.
Toronto saw its advantage disappear in the fourth though, and a Smith layup tied the game 93-93 with 2:39 to play. Gay and Anthony traded baskets and the score remained tied heading into the final minute.
The capacity crowd of 19,800 — what had to have been one of the noisiest gatherings at the Air Canada Centre this season — was on its feet as Lowry scored on his hook shot from six feet out to give the Raptors a two-point edge with 29 seconds to go.
'Kyle's a gamer'
"Kyle's a gamer, stats might not show it, but at the end of the game, he's going to do all he can to try to win the game," Gay said of Lowry.
Chandler had the chance to pull the Knicks even, but missed on one of his two free-throw attempts, and then Gay — fouled by Chandler — put the game away with a pair of free throws of his own, as the Raptors held on for the win.
"We did a good job of executing down the stretch," Casey said. "We have to maintain that defensive focus because we have some guys that can score: DeMar, Rudy, Kyle, John Lucas. . . But we have to maintain a gritty, grimy defensive focus."
The Raptors had beaten the Knicks 92-88 at New York last week as part of their five-game win streak that was snapped Wednesday in an 88-82 loss to Memphis. The Knicks were also coming off a loss, a 125-91 rout by Indiana two nights earlier.
While the Raptors made the one small move Thursday, acquiring Telfair (he didn't dress Friday), trade talk in Toronto had focused around the player the Raptors didn't move — much-maligned forward Andrea Bargnani. The big Italian forward was booed loudly by the crowd when he checked into the game in the third quarter and when he was whistled for a foul in the fourth.
Casey is getting fed up with the booing.
"I don't think it's fair just because a guy's been hurt, he's been out," Casey said after Friday morning's shootaround. "Let's pull for him. If you're a fan, let's be fans for our guys, not for the opposing team's guys.
"Lets pull for our guys, if they're down a little bit let's pull them up instead of pushing them down."
Bargnani finished with zero points in 13 minutes.
Lowry drained all four of his three-point attempts in a high-scoring first quarter, and the teams went into the second tied 32-32.
Toronto's bench struggled in a second quarter that saw the Raptors shoot just 26 per cent from the field. Kidd connected on a three-pointer to put the Knicks up by five two minutes before halftime and the visitors went into the break up 51-48.
Gay took over in the fourth, shooting 7 for 9 and sinking a three with just over three minutes left that gave Toronto a 13-point lead.