The Raptors, in all likelihood, came into the game feeling pretty good about themselves. Two notorious Raptors killers, Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore, along with superstar Anthony Davis, were sidelined with injuries. The lottery-bound Pelicans were forced to play unproven players big minutes, like rookies Kenrich Williams and Frank Jackson. The Raptors capitalized on their situation, and put forth a really impressive second half to pick up the 127-104 win.
The Raptors didn’t need their most efficient offence tonight so they instead looked to setup up teammates with the pass. I counted four leak-out passes alone in the first quarter— one each from Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Kawhi Leonard, and OG Anunoby. Nick Nurse made some adjustments today as well, making an early substitution for Lowry — which some fans had been calling for — so he could start the second quarter with the bench. The big performer for the Raptors though, was Leonard, who posted 24 points in the first half. His athleticism was easy to spot with a few dunks and strong transition play. Always a good sign for Leonard.
The pesky Pelicans hung around in game with the bigs having their way. Cheick Diallo and Julius Randle finished the half with 23 points combined. Even rookie Frank Jackson got in on the action, hustling his way to 11 points and four assists at halftime.
The first play of the third quarter was a full court heave from Lowry to Siakam for a dunk. It was almost funny how many leak-outs the Raptors were getting. The game got even crazier after that. The Raptors ran four straight isolation plays for Siakam (who went two for four), and Leonard kept attacking on his already dominant night. After the dust had settled the Raptors lead 93-80 going into the fourth.
The Raptors came out with great energy again in the fourth. Jeremy Lin and Lowry hit back-to-back threes and at that point the game was all but over. Nick Nurse was even able to go deep into his bench for garbage time minutes. The Raptors victory cigar, Chris Boucher, hoisted his signature three pointer and chased down a vicious block on Ian Clark. Malcolm Miller impressed as well, showcasing his sweet three point stroke.
It was a productive night for the Raptors. Kawhi Leonard showed once again why he is a top player in the league, finishing with 31 points on 14-20 shooting. And in what was a big topic after the loss to Houston, Nick Nurse tinkered with his rotation to some success, getting Lowry out early in the first and third quarters. That’s all positive and the Raptors finally have some momentum again heading into Miami on Sunday.