The Toronto Raptors were frequently as wobbly as a drunken teenager on prom night, but enjoyed enough moments of solid play to grind out a victory. Disappointing shooting nights from DeMar DeRozan (7 for 21, including several air balls) and Jonas Valanciunas were offset by solid efforts from Patrick Patterson and Terrence Ross. These two were particularly effective from beyond the arc, taking advantage of sluggish rotations by the New Orleans Pelicans defense to hit 7 of 10 between them.
The Raps started the game with confidence, as Kyle Lowry, on his way to another excellent game, scored 7 points and handed out 3 assists. However, the 11-point lead the Raps built quickly evaporated in Q2, as poor shooting and turnovers caused the offense to all but cease. Meanwhile, the shorthanded Pelicans brought Tyreke Evans, who wasn’t even supposed to play, off the bench. He continually broke down the Raps’ interior defense to score or pass to a grateful teammate. Toronto was fortunate to have Patterson hit a turnaround jumper, so they could go to intermission with a tie.
The third quarter was a pleasing replay of the first, as the Raps hit from all over to build up an 18-point lead. The Pelicans still weren’t done, as the Raps went frosty again, making one basket in a 6+ minute span over Q3 and into Q4. Meanwhile, All-Star forward Anthony Davis was displaying his otherworldly skills, leading the visitors to within one point of a tie. Kyle decided it was his time, and he’s hard to stop when he makes up his mind. The lead ballooned up to 13 with less than 3 minutes to go, but the Pelicans took advantage of casual Raps defense to sneak back within 5. New Orleans had the ball with 16 seconds to play, but turned it over, DD made the free throws after the forced foul, and the Raps were able to hang on.
Kyle’s numbers: 19 points, 12 assists and 7 boards. The guy is tremendous. TRoss needed only 8 shots to score 14 points, and played another stellar defensive game by quieting Eric Gordon.
Coach Dwane Casey gave Amir Johnson the night off, as time is the best healer for his wonky ankle. Patterson looked comfortable and efficient in the starter’s role, tying DD for the team lead with 22 points and providing his usual energetic defense. PP was ably backed up by Tyler Hansbrough, who was aggressive in scoring 12 points in just over 14 minutes.
Toronto’s next game is Wednesday night against the tough Atlanta Hawks.