Raptors 115 – New Orleans Pelicans 91: road kill

Mar 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) and New Orleans Pelicans forward Luke Babbitt (8) battle for a rebound during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Raptors defeated the Pelicans 115-91. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) and New Orleans Pelicans forward Luke Babbitt (8) battle for a rebound during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Raptors defeated the Pelicans 115-91. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /
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There are precious few NBA games which go according to plan and “form”, but last night’s triumph by the Raptors over the Pelicans was one that did.

The Toronto Raptors were facing a New Orleans Pelicans squad which has been brought low by injuries to its front-line players. The game was tied once, at 2-2, before the visitors ran out to a lead which reached 31 in Q4. The Pelicans are a shadow of an NBA team at the moment.

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First Half

The Raptors have had to adjust to what we fervently hope is a brief slump by sparkplug Kyle Lowry. His poor shooting was manifest once again, as he missed all four of his 3-ball tries. Thankfully there was backfill provided by DeMar DeRozan, who found the strings with his mid-range jumper, and Jonas Valanciunas. The Pelicans big men are dreadful, and JV was able to establish position and score with relative ease.

Mar 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) dunks the ball while defended by New Orleans Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham (44) during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Raptors defeated the Pelicans 115-91. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) dunks the ball while defended by New Orleans Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham (44) during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Raptors defeated the Pelicans 115-91. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

Jonas was a major defensive contributor with 4 blocked shots. The Pelicans are a bunch of strangers to each other, and there were few fluid offensive possessions as a result. Luke Babbitt came off the bench to manage 9 points, including the Pelicans only 3-ball of the half.

Norman Powell continues to impress. He had 7 points, including a smooth corner 3, and defended like a grizzled veteran.

Patrick Patterson also enjoyed the half, scoring 8 points, including both long balls he attempted.

Second Half

Toronto ran away from New Orleans in Q3, enjoying their second straight game with a 37-point quarter. DeMar DeRozan didn’t miss a shot, scoring 11, and Luis Scola continued his hot shooting from distance. Our Argentinian power forward (in theory anyway) drained 3 long balls.

Raptor D wasn’t as smothering as earlier, although JV did pull down 5 more rebounds and block another shot.

The margin was 25 points entering Q4, so we were in garbage time really early. The only starter who played the final 12 minutes was Powell. Near the end he was joined by D-League mate Bruno, Bebe and Delon. Defense was certainly not on the minds of the scrubs who finished this game, and the teams split 60 points.

In Sum…

Even at full strength, the Raptors are a better team than the Pelicans. When virtually every New Orleans starter is sidelined, the game is unfair.

The only problem the Raptors had tonight was the continued woes of Kyle Lowry. He ended the game 0 of 8 from distance, though he did hand out 8 assists against 1 turnover. Thankfully it’s a team game, and emerging players like Norman Powell were in the groove. All five Raptors starters scored in double figures.

DeRozan was a model of efficiency, needing only 11 shots to net 23 points. Patterson hit all 3 of his long balls to finish with 16. Luis Scola enjoyed his fifth straight game with at least three 3s, hitting 4 of 5.

What was most pleasing to me about this game (apart from the fact no one got hurt) was the lack of need for extraordinary performance. Every Raptor contributed according to his normal capability, and an easy win resulted.

Next: A playoff-ready Power Forward realignment?

Toronto has now tied its franchise record for wins in a season, and can break it on Monday night against an infinitely tougher opponent, the Oklahoma City Thunder.