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Raptors defeat Magic in Chinese New Year celebration

Updated: 2014-01-30 16:43
( Xinhua)

Raptors defeat Magic in Chinese New Year celebration

Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) shoots against the Orlando Magic at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Magic 98-83. [Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

TORONTO - Toronto Raptors celebrated Chinese New Year with a 98-83 victory over the Orlando Magic in NBA action on Wednesday night.

Toronto is one of 10 NBA teams to celebrate the Year of the Horse, a global event that will reach millions across China, the United States and Canada.

From January 29 to February 5, Houston Rockets, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings will also celebrate the holiday in their home arenas.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was not surprised of Toronto's inclusion by the NBA.

"Toronto is a melting pot of different cultures. It's a very welcoming city," Casey said prior to the game. "Anytime you can celebrate any nationality, anybody's heritage, it's a beautiful thing. Chinese New Year is a wonderful, wonderful event for our organization."

During the game, Toronto paid tribute to the Chinese culture with signage displayed throughout the Air Canada Center, fan giveaways consisting of stuffed horses, and a half-time Lion Dance performance by a local Chinese group.

Casey has seen the sport grow first-hand in his 30-plus years as a basketball coach.

"I've gone to Asia quite a bit since 1979-80 and played against all the Asian countries," said Casey, who spent five years as head coach of the Japanese national team in the 1980s prior to his NBA coaching debut. "The growth of the NBA in that area and part of the world has grown 100 times."

Since 1978, the NBA has played a total of 147 international games in North America, South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

"We have NBA offices in China, and also in Japan," Casey said. "We can't even comprehend how big the NBA is in that part of the world."

Aside from Casey, the Raptors' squad also feature four players that participated in the exhibition games in the 2000s.

Patrick Patterson, Steve Novak, Kyle Lowry and Chuck Hayes all were teammates of China's Yao Ming during his 8-year career with the Houston Rockets.

Hayes was a member of the 2010 Rockets-squad that played exhibition matches in Shanghai and Guangzhou.

"It's exciting. Going over, seeing it up close in-person," Hayes said before the game. "It's a global game now."

Since Yao's retirement from the league in 2011, the popularity of the league across Asia has continued primarily due to the emergence of Jeremy Lin.

The pinnacle of the phenomenon known as "Linsanity" occurred on February 14, 2012 in Toronto when Lin hit a game-winning three-pointer.

"I just don't want to play Jeremy Lin on Chinese New Year," Casey joked. "We played him two years ago and he hit that winning shot against us."

NBA's ongoing Chinese New Year celebration is the third year of a campaign that saw 96 million viewers and 107 million viewers in China in the last two years, respectively.

NBA hopes the upward trend continues as they further promote the growth of basketball.