After a frustrating loss in Houston on Friday, the Raptors took care of business tonight against a seriously depleted New Orleans Pelicans team. Behind a huge night from their starting lineup, they won 115-91, earning their franchise record-tying 49th win of the season.
Without question, the overriding storyline from this one is how depressing the Pelicans roster has become. Decimated by injuries, they turned out just nine healthy bodies tonight -- eight if you remove immobile muscle wall Kendrick Perkins. What resulted was a team that looked about as good as the talent on the court. New Orleans relied on Alonzo Gee and Luke Babbitt to get buckets. Some guy named Tim Frazier played 28 minutes at point guard. Alexis Ajinca was throwing lobs to Omer Asik.
It all yielded predictable results, as the Raptors starters suited up and destroyed the Pelicans in their minutes on the floor.
Jonas Valanciunas had a solid two-way game, protecting the paint on one end and scoring on the other for 10 points, nine rebounds and one(!) assist. DeMar DeRozan picked up his scoring after a so-so effort against the Rockets, with a game-high 23 points on 9-for-11 shooting. Kyle Lowry struggled with his shot to the tune of 11 points, but spread the love for eight assists and a game-high +29 (he's good). Norman Powell keeps on impressing in lieu of the injured Terrence Ross, as he had 15 points and seven rebounds. No starter finished worse than +18, as the stars were afforded rest in a thorough (and somewhat expected) beatdown.
Despite the end result, it was a sloppy start for the Raptors. DeRozan and Lowry were soft with the ball a few times off the dribble, as the Pelicans got points off turnovers to stay within five after the first quarter. In the second, Alonzo Gee made his presence felt off the bench, working toward his team-high 18 points. There wasn't a lot else going New Orleans' way, though, as a couple Luis Scola threes earned some separation while Biyombo and Valanciunas traded time playing excellent paint defense.
A 12-point halftime lead for the Raptors quickly swelled in the third. They started the quarter on a 10-1 run with the starters in, playing with much better offensive tempo and a fiery DeRozan, who had 11 in the frame. The lead grew to 24 headed into the fourth, when pretty much everyone of consequence sat down to rest. Lowry played just 28 minutes tonight, while DeRozan played 30.
With the stars out of the game, Powell once again found some time to shine.
That dunk was the exclamation point on a dominant win, as the Raptors did what they have most of the season -- take care of a beatable opponent after a disappointing loss. They now look ahead to hosting Oklahoma City on Monday, beginning a stretch of games against strong opponents.
What were your thoughts on this one?