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Raptors light up Bell Centre crowd with easy victory over Nets

Raptors light up Bell Centre crowd with easy victory over Nets
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“We tried a lot of different things in the first half and our execution wasn’t there,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “It’s still pre-season and we’re looking for the right combinations, but no matter who’s out there, the execution should be better. The thing I liked in the second half was the way we picked up our defence. I think we had 14 deflections in the third quarter.”

The Nets jumped out to a 5-0 lead and the Raptors played catch-up for all of the first half and trailed 59-56 at the intermission. The one thing that kept the Raptors within hailing distance of the Nets was the three-point shooting of Danny Green, who drained five shots from downtown.

Green continued his fine play in the second half and he cashed in when Kawhi Leonard missed a dunk on a fast break early in the third quarter. Leonard’s dunk attempt hit the back of the iron and bounced back to Green at the top of the key. He hit the three-pointer for a 73-66 Toronto lead.

Green finished the game with 22 points and Serge Ibaka had 13, while Kawhi Leonard and Fred Van Vleet each scored 11. Jonas Valanciunas added nine, while Kyle Lowry had five before he was ejected in the third quarter after he picked up his second technical foul. Brooklyn’s Jarrett Allen had a game-high 26 points.

Raptors forward Chris Boucher, who is a Montrealer, blocks Nets forward Alan Williams during Wednesday night’s game at the Bell Centre. Pierre Obendrauf / Montreal Gazette

Montrealer Chris Boucher, who is battling for the final spot on the Toronto roster, received a loud ovation and cries of Bou-cher, Bou-cher when he entered the game with 7:07 to play. He elicited more cheers when he hit two three-pointers in the final 70 seconds of the game. He missed two other shots, blocked a shot, forced a Brooklyn player to take a bad shot and picked up three fouls. Boucher, who played his college basketball at Oregon, also received an ovation when he addressed the crowd in French before the game.

“He was thirsty for those three-pointers,” Nurse said. “To hear those cheers, this is a night he’ll never forget.”

The game was played against the backdrop of a news conference earlier in the day touting the possibility of an NBA expansion franchise. Former politician Michel Fortier and Kevin Gilmore, the one-time chief operating officer of the Canadiens, made their case in a presentation to the Montreal Board of Trade.

There are a few obstacles in the way, starting with Fortier’s admission that the NBA has no immediate plans for expansion. The best-case scenario has the NBA adding teams  after it finalizes a new TV contract in 2025. When the NBA does expand,  there are cities like Seattle, Louisville, San Diego and Mexico City in the queue ahead of Montreal.

Fortier and Gilmore also need investors to foot the cost of the project, somewhere between $1.5 billion and $2 billion. Their lone commitment to date comes from Stéphan Crétier, the CEO of security firm GardaWorld, who’s in for 10 per cent of the team.

GALLERY:

The press conference was a surprise to NBA Canada officials who had spent three days promoting basketball in the city. The word is they were not pleased someone tried to hijack their party.

The crowd included Canadiens Jacob de la Rose, Artturi Lehkonen, Max Domi and Brendan Gallagher, who presented NBA great Gary Payton with a Canadiens jersey.

Unflappable Canadiens rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi shows veteran s poise
Read more on Montreal Gazette
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