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Toronto Raptors

How did Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka play in his first game back from injury?

With 1:30 remaining in the first quarter of Toronto Raptors 130-110 win over the Utah Jazz Sunday evening, the crowd inside of Scotiabank Arena roared.

Yes, the Raptors were on a 27-5 but the energy in the building at that moment was a product of Serge Ibaka checking in the game for the first time in nearly a month. Ibaka, who has become a mainstay in Toronto's rotation since he was acquired from the Orlando Magic in 2017, had missed the team's last 10 games after suffering a "pretty bad" sprained ankle on Nov. 8.

TAKEAWAYS: Siakam leads Raptors to seventh-straight win

Like most players that missed as much game time as Ibaka had, there was some rust that needed to be shaken off. While his movements weren't ginger, he appeared to not want to waste any movement early on while his ankle loosened and got warm.

Ibaka's first shot attempt - a missed nine-foot floater off of a roll - came at the 11:08 mark of the second quarter. In fact, Ibaka would miss his first five shot attempts in the game.

But as he shed the rust, he looked increasingly comfortable and found many ways to impact the game.

With 3:29 remaining in the third, Ibaka's scored his first bucket of the night on a pick-and-roll with Terence Davis, a play that was similar to the situation in which his first shot attempt of the night came.

It was almost as if the lid had come off the basket.

Later in the quarter, Ibaka knocked down a corner triple assisted by Fred VanVleet with 1:26 remaining and on the next offensive possession, converted on an and-one through contact made by two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert.

It wasn't just that Ibaka got back on the board, either. His buckets came in a very timely fashion.

After the Raptors had led by as many as 40 points in the game, Ibaka's corner triple put the team back up by 20 points as a furious rally from the Jazz made things relatively close. His and-one brought on more momentum and energized the Scotiabank Arena crowd once again as the Raptors were back up by 23 points.

Just like that, Ibaka had scored eight points in just under three minutes.

That spurt was seemingly all Ibaka needed to get going and was just what the Raptors needed to get back on track as the Jazz came out firing on all cylinders to begin the half.

Ibaka would go on to finish the game with 13 points (on 5-14 FG), four rebounds, three assists and one steal, though he did commit three turnovers.

In the 21 minutes he played, Toronto outscored Utah by seven points.

While his shooting percentage (.357) could be a cause for concern, it isn't truly worth putting much stock into as Ibaka knocked down five of his last nine attempts from the field, including 2-for-4 from beyond the arc.

Clearly, he just needed to shake the rust off after missing time.

Ibaka's numbers - and presence - should be a big sign of encouragement for the Raptors, as he seemingly improved with each passing minute and will only get better as he gets back into game shape.

MORE: Injury updates on Lowry, others

Similar to how he was at times last postseason, Ibaka's veteran presence is a calming force for the team, as evidenced by his timely buckets in the third.

As an added bonus, Serge's return to the lineup increases Toronto's depth, which is very important considering how crucial transition scoring is to the team's offence. This should mean great things for both parties moving forward.

GRADE: B+

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