After dropping a overtime match in Atlanta, the Toronto Raptors needed to stop the bleeding against the New Orleans Pelicans. The home team was missing its nonpareil young centre, Anthony Davis, because of illness. They didn’t need him until the fourth quarter, when the Raps took control of the backboards, and the game, holding the Pels to 15 points while scoring 26. A gratifying come-from-behind road win was in the books.
The Pels looked like they would run the Raps out of the delightfully-named Smoothie King Center in Q1, shooting over 81% to take an 8-point lead, and extending it to 14 halfway through Q2. Without Jonas Valanciunas, who didn’t dress because of a back injury, New Orleans was merciless in attacking the paint. Less than luminous names like Greg Stiemsma, Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey were using their length to shoot over the Raps. New Orleans also received strong penetration from real players like Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans. Without warning, the Raps’ defense suddenly found its footing, while off-the-cuff lineups (Nando De Colo on the floor with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan) were penetrating and passing with confidence. The Raps ended the half on a 20-7 run, finishing appropriately when DD drained a contested foul-line jumper at the buzzer.
The third quarter was a back & forth affair, but the Pels grabbed a 4-point lead. It wasn’t enough, as Tyler Hansbrough and Amir Johnson bedeviled the home team in the decisive final frame, providing the Raps some put-back baskets or a fresh shot clock. Greivis Vasquez, in a successful 14-point return to his former city, punctuated the Raps’ board control when he grabbed his own miss among the trees, buried the layup and hit the free throw. Hansbrough was so dominant, he grabbed more offensive rebounds than the entire Pelican team (7-5). Johnson, playing on a badly weakened ankle, scored 17 points and grabbed 9 boards. The smaller Raps outrebounded the Pels 48-34.
Battle-hardened veterans DeRozan and Lowry led the Raps in scoring, with 31 and 23 respectively. DD hit 13 free throws, as he made the Pels pay repeatedly for Davis’ absence by driving to the basket. Kyle has had better nights shooting the ball, and he won’t be happy with more turnovers (6) than assists (5), but he was a critical contributor to the big win regardless. Chuck Hayes was highly useful in limited minutes, grabbing 8 boards. De Colo, starting to look comfortable with his new teammates, played error-free ball, and may have worked himself into the rotation. Landry Fields couldn’t get off the pine, despite the Raps’ short roster. Terrence Ross hurt his cause with 4 fouls.
Toronto returns home with very little time to rest and recover. The Oklahoma City Thunder are in town on Friday night, and the hot Atlanta Hawks arrive on Sunday.