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DeRozan Scores 31 and Raptors Out-Hustle Pelicans for the Win

The Toronto Raptors may not have deserved this win but as Joshua Santos notes in his recap, they fought through early-game troubles to snap a two-game losing streak.

In a game where the Toronto Raptors were without sophomore centre, Jonas Valancuinas, the club received an unexpected lift as NBA All-Star, Anthony Davis, was also inactive for the game for Toronto's opponent, the New Orleans Pelicans.

After a monstrous game against the Boston Celtics -- where Davis scored a career high 40 points and pulled down 21 rebounds, the "brow" sat out the game against the Dinos with flu like symptoms. And had Davis played in this one, the outcome of the matchup might have been completely different. Plus, the Pelicans were of course also without Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday and Jason Smith, as all three of those players had season ending injuries.

Pelicans' head coach Monty Williams has been forced to adapt his system without those players, and with both clubs with their fair share of injuries, neither necessarily had the upper hand going into this one.

The Raptors injuries were more of the front-court variety, missing Patrick Patterson and playing a banged up Amir Johnson on top of missing Big Val, and yet they managed to dig out 107 to 100 win against a tough New Orleans Pelicans' squad, gaining their sixth consecutive win over the franchise, and maintaining the third spot in the Eastern Conference, half a game up over the ever-charging Chicago Bulls.

After an uneven performance through the first three quarters, Toronto closed the fourth on a solid run, tying the game at 94 apiece, and thanks to the late game heroics of Greivis Vasquez, the Raps managed to hang on. The former Pelican Hornet managed to score five clutch points, in a span of 36 seconds, paying tribute to a young Tracy McGrady.

Getting this W was an important feat for the club, which one could argue wasn't really deserved.

After all, somehow Toronto allowed the Pelicans to shoot 81.3 per cent from the field in the first quarter (they missed only three shots) and the mark at the half (66%) wasn't much better.

But, the club got going in the second quarter, storming back to only trail by a point at the half, with players like DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry leading the way.  For the Pelicans, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans combined for 25 points, including a 14-0 run at one moment.

The second half, especially the final quarter was a different story as suddenly the fight emerged from the Dinos. Nowhere was this more evident than on the glass where the club had 22 offensive rebounds to just 5 for the Pelicans. This was the major difference maker in the end, much of it thanks to the efforts of Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough and Chuck Hayes as they hustled on boards.

As well, while Nando De Colo didn't play tons of minutes down the stretch, he was able to energize the Raps when he did get some playing time, helping to get the ball going and playing aggressively on defense. His statistics don't do justice, but he was vastly productive. (+13 in only 14 minutes of action.)

While Casey may be criticized for his mixture of different lineups, he did manage to give Vasquez the ball more often, as Greivis played 21 minutes, shooting 51.1 percent from the field, and 80 percent from the free throw line. And as noted before, part of this was Vasquez going on a mini scoring streak near game's end to help seal the deal for Toronto.

This win comes as a much needed break, as the Raps were on the verge of a three game losing streak, losing to the Phoenix Suns and Atlanta Hawks earlier this week in games that saw both teams that gave the Raps multiple headaches. Next up for the Dinos is a tough test on Friday, the Oklahoma City Thunder, so here's hoping the club gets some healthy bodies back.

One interesting thing that stood out to me in this one was Dwane Casey's use of Steve Novak.  He played only four minutes and yet I feel that he should have gotten more burn in this one.  While he may have a few strands of grey hairs, he's healthy and can produce on the offensive end, especially in terms of opening up the court for teammates.

In a close game like this, the Raps could have used Novak's help on offense, whether shooting or distributing, to stretch the Pelican's defense. However Casey still insists on letting Chuck Hayes and others play over Novak, and for large chunks of minutes, despite their limited "functionalities."

That's not to say Novak is the missing piece the offense needs, by any means. But considering that in the 43 games he's played, he's shot 44.4 per cent from long-range, it's hard not to see how he couldn't be used more often in key moments, especially in games like last night's where at various points, the club struggled to score, and reverted to Rudy Gay ball.

We'll see if anything changes tomorrow night vs OKC...

Extra Game Notes:

-          The Raps have never been on a three game losing streak since trading away Rudy Gay on Dec. 9

-          For the seventh time this season, Toronto won when allowing the opposition to score 100 points or more.

-          Toronto swept the season series against the Pelicans

-          Nando De Colo played for 14 minutes!

-          The Raptors are now 15-13 against the Western Conference teams

-          Toronto finished with 18 second-chance points.

- Apparently the Raptors refer to Vasquez as "Spicy."  From DeRozan post-game: "It's cool to have a teammate like that because you see how much he wanted it," DeRozan said of Vasquez. "That's why we call him `Spicy.' You never know what you're going to get until you eat it."

-          The Pelicans' crowd was nowhere near as bad as the Hawks.