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Raptors thrash Knicks in Bargnani's return to ACC

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TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry poured in 32 points, plus 11 assists and eight rebounds, to lead the Raptors to a decisive 115-100 victory over the New York Knicks on Saturday -- a home victory that perhaps finally spelled the end of Toronto's lacklustre play at Air Canada Centre.

Terrence Ross had seven three-pointers as part of a 23-point performance for the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors (13-15), who've won eight of their last 10 games -- but were just 4-8 at home heading into Saturday's matchup.

DeMar DeRozan finished with 20 points, while Raptors newcomer Greivis Vasquez added 11, and Jonas Valanciunas had 10 boards to go with nine points.

Toronto's victory over the beleaguered Knicks was the second in as many nights, coming a day after they rallied from a 12-point third-quarter deficit to win 95-83 in New York.

The Raptors never trailed by more than two points Saturday, and took the lead for good late in the first quarter, pulling away in the second with crisp ball movement, strong team play, and the hot hand of Ross before taking an 85-71 lead into the fourth.

Vasquez, acquired in the trade that sent Rudy Gay to Sacramento, drained three consecutive three-pointers in the third for a 17-point Toronto lead. But the Knicks put up some resistance down the stretch, pulling to within six points on a basket by Tyson Chandler with 3:50 left to play.

Lowry, who was just two rebounds shy of a triple-double on the night, responded with a pair of free throws and a three-pointer to put Toronto up by 11 and out of danger to the relief of a sellout crowd.

Amare Soudemire had 23 points to top the Knicks (9-21), who were missing Carmelo Anthony (sprained left ankle) and Metta World Peace (sore left knee). Chandler added 16, while former Raptor Andrea Bargnani had 12 points in 17 minutes.

The Raptors were back in Toronto after going 3-1 on the road -- a stretch that included victories over Oklahoma City and Dallas. But they've struggled at home, going 4-8 at the ACC prior to Saturday's matchup. Coach Dwane Casey said there'd been much discussion with his staff about the discrepancy between his team's performances on the road and at home.

Bargnani, meanwhile, was booed mercilessly during introductions in his first regular-season game in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to New York last summer. Some fans chanted "Primo!" -- a reference to his Toronto pasta commercials.

The 7-foot Italian was drafted No. 1 overall in 2006, and played his first seven NBA seasons in Toronto, but fans had little love left for Bargnani by the time he departed.

Before the game, Bargnani made light of the boos he knew he'd surely face.

"It's not the first time I got booed. It's not the last time. I've been playing in Europe since I was 14. It's not just about the boos. It's about life. a You hear them," he said. "But like I say, it's not the first time, it's not the last time."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 29, 2013 B7

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