This mind you, after the Dinos led 31 to 20 after the first quarter.
The club, as has unfortunately been the case of late, took their feet off the proverbial gas pedal, and allowed the Pelicans to post 29 second-quarter points and what looked to be an easy win, now looked like a potential embarrassing loss. The Pelicans after all were playing without point guard Jrue Holiday and big man Ryan Anderson while Toronto was running with pretty much a full squad. (Amir Johnson was given the night off due to persistent ankle problems.)
Kyle Lowry wasn't having it though.
On the next two possessions he curled into the paint to find Jonas Valanciunas for a dunk, then zinged a pass to Patrick Patterson with the clock winding down resulting in a made jumper that tied things at 49 entering the third.
Lowry was the catalyst on both plays, and made sure his club didn't squander a game that they needed to have. He made countless plays down the stretch as the fourth quarter unfortunately looked a lot like the second, finishing with 19 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds.
All in a day's work.
As many of our readers noted during last night's liveblog, without Lowry last night, there's no doubt this game would have been Toronto's third straight loss. He made play after play at both ends of the court when the Dinos needed it most, and on a night when the Raptors got some extremely inconsistent individual efforts, Lowry was the anchor keeping his team in line.
So let's leave Lowry aside for a minute and look at the rest of the club because as noted, this wasn't exactly a picture perfect match for Toronto.
Patrick Patterson had 22 points starting in the place of Johnson, and DeMar DeRozan, and Terrence Ross also hit double-figures in scoring but there wasn't much else bench-wise for Toronto. Tyler Hansbrough gave his club some gritty minutes but the Pelicans' pine crew outscored that of the Dinos 49 to 22. A big piece of that was Tyreke Evans, who was pretty much unstoppable on the night posting an impressive stat line of 23 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds.
The bigger issue though wasn't the scoring discrepancy in one area or another, it was on D.
Despite the win, Toronto again gave up a bucketload of points and allowed the Pellies to shoot over 50 per cent from the field. Rotations were late or non existent at times, Anthony Davis burned Toronto on screen-and-rolls time and time again, and New Orleans got far too many open three-point looks on the perimeter. (Luke Babitt!!) The club just hasn't been great on the defensive end of the court over the past couple weeks, something the club is going to need to clean up after the All-Star break. Some of this can likely be chalked up to a lack of practice time but regardless, a team that at one point was sitting in the very upper echelon of defensive efficiency, has now slipped a bit to sit in seventh.
As well, the effort just hasn't been there for a full 48 minutes. Last night there were numerous plays again where Toronto just didn't get back on D or turned the ball over needlessly. The focus hasn't been there consistently, and that's allowed inferior clubs like the Pelicans back in games that Toronto should have put away far before the fourth quarter.
And that's why suddenly tomorrow night's match vs the Atlanta Hawks is so interesting to me.
The Hawks are a club the Dinos are jockeying with for third place in the East and they need a solid outing pre-All-Star break. Atlanta may not be Miami or Indiana, but if Toronto truly wants to claim to be the best club after the aforementioned duo, it needs to get the win.
And playing as they have the past few games likely won't cut it.