A young depleted Pelicans roster wasn’t up to the challenge of playing a back-to-back against a pair of Eastern Conference teams and after losing in Brooklyn on Sunday 93-81 they fell short in Toronto to the Raptors 108-101 on Monday.
The Pelicans starting unit looked gassed from the start of this game, giving up a 31-20 lead in the first quarter and repeating their subpar effort in the third quarter 33-21. However, both times their second unit bailed them out and gave the Pelicans a chance to steal one on the road. With Austin Rivers initiating the offense and Tyreke Evans taking over from there, the New Orleans reserves brought their team back to a tie at half and then brought the Pelicans back to within one point with 6:50 left in the fourth quarter.
However, when Toronto brought their starters back in to finish the game, that was all she wrote for the tired birds from the south. In a little over 2 minutes, the Raptors had restored a 9 point lead and they coasted home despite 3 ridiculous turnovers in the final minute that made the ending a little more suspenseful than it should have been.
“For whatever reason we are losing leads with our second unit,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “What it is doing is putting a lot of pressure on our starters and putting them in big minute situations. I think we just have to get their rhythm back. Taking Patrick (Patterson) off the second unit hurts them a bit, but still we have to get a rhythm with that second unit so we can rest our starters.”
Raptors starting power forward Amir Johnson was given the night off with a sore foot and Patterson was inserted into the starting lineup with great effect. Patterson smothered the Pelicans newest All-Star Anthony Davis on defense while scoring a season-high 22 points on 7-11 shooting. DeMar DeRozan also had 22 points on an inefficient 7-21 from the field, but was picked up by a strong game from Kyle Lowry with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 12 assists.
Tyler Hansbrough was a load inside and scored 12 points in 14.5 minutes and was particularly effective over the final 6.5 minutes after Jonas Valanciunas picked up his fifth personal foul.
“Tyler and Patrick both carried us tonight,” Casey said. “I thought they were huge in their minutes. Tyler came in and was a pro, rebounded, had 6 rebounds and 12 points. He brings physicality to the game that we need and gets to the free throw line.”
Davis had 19 points and 7 rebounds, but he was held to 1-4 for 3 points in the first quarter and 1-2 for 3 points in the third quarter as Patterson did a solid job defensively of keeping him out of his comfort zone.
‘Make him shoot, get a great contest and be physical with him,” Patterson said about guarding Davis. “Try to limit his touches around the paint because he uses his length and his size to the best of his abilities and just try to make him as uncomfortable out there as possible. He thrives off of transition, he thrives off of alley-oops, so you try to take that away from him as much as possible.”
Davis didn’t look very comfortable while Patterson was on the court.
Evans, who was a mysterious DNP-CD the night before, came off the bench as an unstoppable force scoring 23 points, collecting 5 boards and dishing 10 dimes. In stretches, Evans was able to drive to the rim at will and shot an efficient 10-14 from the field. Whatever had him nailed to the bench in Brooklyn must have brought the best out of him in Toronto.
The Pelicans complete this 3 game Eastern Conference road trip with a stop in Milwaukee on Wednesday.
The Raptors will entertain the Hawks on Wednesday with a chance to create some space between themselves and their closest rival for third place in the East. The Hawks will be coming in after playing the Bulls on Tuesday.
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