By Frank McLean
When it comes to playing the Toronto Raptors, it seems that the New Orleans Pelicans don’t need their All-Star power forward Anthony Davis to win. For the second time this season without Davis in the lineup, the Pelicans defeated the Raptors 100-97 in game they were trailing until there was less than two minutes to play in fourth quarter.
There is no excuse for how the Raptors let this one get away from their grasp. This game looked like an easy win for the Raptors. Not only was Davis missing with a sprained right shoulder, but two other regulars were scratched from the Pelicans. Power forward Ryan Anderson with sprained knee and point guard Jrue Holliday with a stress reaction in his right leg.
As the game progressed it looked like Toronto could book win number 38 of the season. The Raptors took charge from the get go as they led for the entire first half and had a comfortable 56-44 lead at the break. They started the third quarter looking good and with 7:54 left had a 13-point lead, 62-49, but coming out of timeout it all started to slip away. The Pelicans went on a 15-8 run and cut the Raptors lead to just 6-points with 2:40 left in the quarter. The Raptors led by seven at the end of the third, 74-67, but that’s when the game slipped away.
The fourth quarter saw former Miami Heat guard Norris Cole get red hot for the Pelicans, as he scored 13-points in the quarter. Forward Luke Babbit was the one who created the first lead change in the game with just 1:55 left in regulation time, hitting a three point shot to make it 94-93 Pelicans, a lead they would not give up.
Also, give credit to the Pelicans bench as they scored 55 points. Cole, Alexis Ajinca and Babbitt contributing 49 points. Missing three starters, the Pelicans used the “Next Man Up” philosophy to get a win.
This is a loss the Raptors should be ashamed of. If you are one of the top teams in the NBA, and the Raptors are based on their record, you do not blow big leads on the road to teams missing three players out of their starting five. There’s no excuse, you simply don’t do that! For the record, the Raptors biggest lead of the game was 18 points.
“I don’t even want to hear about the next team that doesn’t have a player playing,” a ticked off Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey said after the game. “I think those other guys came in and played hungry. Their bench had 50 points (55 really). That’s the worst thing you can do, play against hungry guys trying to get their opportunity in this league. That’s what they did. You talk about guys that are talented, Norris Cole and Alexis Ajinca came in and made their mark on the game.”
So that sums up a bad Monday night in “The Big Easy” for Toronto. Not so easy for the Raptors and just like “Mardi Gras” for the Pelicans.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.