They'll call this the Tyreke Evans game. Or maybe the Alexis Ajinca game. In truth, this afternoon's showdown with the New Orleans Pelicans was easy to name: a chance at an easier W became a game that got away.
These Pelicans, who with the win move to .500, came into Toronto without starting point guard Jrue Holiday and megalodon basketball presence, Anthony Davis. On paper, even with the Raps reeling, it was a good chance to play out of the "mud" coach Dwane Casey keeps referring to.
"We feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders," said Casey after the game. "Somehow, someway, we have to get back to playing basketball and not feeling that weight on our shoulders." It's a weight that seems to be destroying what was once a potent Toronto attack.
Today saw the Raptors come out to as sluggish a start as they've had this season, with only 36 points scored. The Pelicans, emboldened by the play of the aforementioned Ajinca (22 points on 10-for-13 shooting, I can't believe it either), looked in control. The Raptors stormed back, as they have been known to do, with some timely shooting from DeMar DeRozan (22 points), Lou Williams (17 points) and Greivis Vasquez (16 points and nine assists). Even the recently slumping Patrick Patterson got into the mix, dropping 10 points and a pair of 3-pointers. As bad as the first half was, the third quarter saw the Raptors outscore the Pelicans 35-14 to take a lead into the fourth.
Unfortunately, still stuck in the mud for the Raptors: Kyle Lowry (a meager 8-5-5), Jonas Valanciunas (an invisible six points and seven boards), and, good lord, Terrence Ross (hopeless today with one solitary rebound). In fact, Casey opted to play Ross only 11 first half minutes. "We are not giving up on him [Ross]," said Casey after the game, in a statement sure to rile up many of Toronto's fans.
So, with a last second Evans lay-up, the Pelicans escape Toronto with a win. The Raptors follow a 2-4 road trip with a 2-4 homestand, and sink deeper in the mud. Questions abound.
On a day when his Lithuanian heritage was celebrated, Valanciunas gets the last word:
"It's really tough but we have to stay together. We have a game tomorrow and somehow we have to find a way to dig in and get out from this losing streak."
The Raptors head to Milwaukee tomorrow for a game against a team not unlike the Pelicans; feisty, but beatable. But, which Toronto team will show up?
What did you guys think of the game?