Six players scored in double figures for the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, as the Toronto Raptors made a bruised and beaten team look positively Hawks-ish. Yes, without Anthony Davis, Jrue Holliday, or Ryan Anderson, the Pelicans still won 100-97.
In a wild finish, Kyle Lowry missed a potential game-tying three at the buzzer. To add insult to injury, the Pelicans sealed the win on the previous play with a pair of Jimmer Fredette free throws. Jimmer Fredette!
The three top scorers for New Orleans came off the bench, led by Luke Babbitt, who went 4-for-5 from three-point range on his way to 18 points. Alexis Ajinca, the thorn in the Raptors previous loss to the Pelicans, added 16, while new acquisition Norris Cole added 15.
The Raptors bench, in comparison, was downright pitiful. Without Patrick Patterson, they went 5-for-21 from the field, scoring 21 to the Pelicans 55. Dwane Casey elected to tighten the rotation to nine players, leaving Landry Fields and Chuck Hayes to sit. This put more minutes and pressure on the starters. Some rose to the challenge, others did not.
Jonas Valanciunas was one of those who rose. More promising than the 17 points and 14 rebounds in a team-high 36 minutes was his energy, frustrating Omer Asik and earning second possessions for Toronto. The increased minutes came mostly because of Patterson’s injury, but it was nice to see the big Lithuanian show he can play and be effective for long stretches. Kyle Lowry also put together a nice game, scoring a game-high 22 points to go with five assists and three steals.
Now the negatives! DeMar DeRozan was only occasionally interested in attacking, and settled for a lot of off-ball action and fadeaway jump shots on his way to a 6-for-15 night. Amir Johnson had a great first half with eight points, but disappeared as the Pelicans made their run down the stretch, going scoreless in the final 24 minutes.
The Raptors seemed to be in control of this one after the first half, leading 56-44. A sloppy offensive third quarter by the Raptors allowed the Pelicans to chip away, though, and a 10-2 run to start the fourth tied it up. From there, the vaunted Smoothie King Center fans rose to their feet (no doubt a delayed sugar high from all the strawberries and bananas), playing a role in making the finish that much more frantic.
The Raptors will now play their fourth game in five nights tomorrow in Dallas before returning home for Golden State on Friday. Big picture, the Raptors are 4-2 on this gruelling eight game stretch. That’s not bad. Given the roster of their opposition tonight, though, this game has to be up there with the November 30 overtime loss to the Lakers for worst of the season.
I conclude with a video depiction of what just went down. Here is a pelican eating another creature alive:
What were your thoughts on this one?