Toughness was what Masai Ujiri saw in Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker.
And the two new Raptors certainly delivered Friday.
On a night when DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 43 points — prompting serenades of “M-V-P!” — Ibaka and Tucker earned rave reviews in their Raptors debuts, a thrilling, knock ’em down, drag ’em out 107-97 victory over the Boston Celtics.
“That type of physical play, that’s what this league is about,” a pleased coach Dwane Casey said. “The way we competed down the stretch with that group, that’s the physicality we have to play [with] against a very high-powered offensive team like Boston and everybody else we play.
“It’s not a finesse game, it’s not pretty, we knew it was going to be a grind it out game, down 17 and nothing but grit and grime and hard work and want-to is what that’s about out.”
Ibaka scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Tucker finished with a team-high 10 rebounds — including two huge ones in the final minute-and-a-half — plus nine points to lift a retooled Raptors team that was missing Kyle Lowry.
‘We can really wreak havok’
“We’ve got so many weapons and so many possibilities,” Tucker said. “Defensively, I think we can really wreak havoc. That last lineup we had, and then you throw Kyle in there, we can really do some things and be special.
“We haven’t practiced. I didn’t shoot-around. I didn’t do anything. To see the chemistry we had, me and Serge didn’t know any plays. We were just kind of playing. It was a feel. We were working through it and talking.”
Cory Joseph and Patrick Patterson added 11 points apiece for Toronto (34-24).
Isaiah Thomas led Boston (37-21) with 20 points.
Tucker, who was originally drafted by Toronto in 2006, was playing his first game as a Raptor in about a decade, and on virtually no sleep. Acquired at Thursday’s trade deadline, he didn’t arrive in town until 9:30 Friday morning.
“I am extremely tired and excited to get some sleep. Extremely excited,”…