Game Preview: Pelicans vs. Raptors - March 19, 2014
With only 16 games remaining in the 2013-14 season, the New Orleans Pelicans will have several chances to play the role of spoiler over the next four weeks. One such opportunity takes place Wednesday in the Smoothie King Center, when the Pelicans wrap up their season-long six-game homestand with an interconference matchup against the Toronto Raptors.
The Atlantic Division-leading Raptors are in pursuit of their first division championship in seven years, but the second-place Brooklyn Nets remain within striking distance after getting off to a very poor start. Toronto is on pace to finish with one of the best records in its 19-year franchise history and potentially win a playoff series for only the second time ever.
Wednesday’s game against the Raptors is part of a very challenging close to the 82-game slate for the Pelicans, including 12 contests against squads that are currently in playoff position. New Orleans’ next four contests are also vs. potential postseason qualifiers – Atlanta, Miami, Brooklyn and the Los Angeles Clippers. In mid-April, the Pelicans finish the regular season with two games apiece against Oklahoma City and Houston.
In the only previous matchup of 2013-14 between New Orleans and Toronto, the Raptors prevailed 108-101, partly behind a third-quarter surge. On Feb. 10 in Canada, the game was deadlocked at 49 at halftime, but Toronto outscored New Orleans 33-21 in the third period to go up by a dozen points. The Pelicans fought back into the hunt in the fourth quarter, closing to within 88-86 midway through the stanza, but the Raptors regained a cushion. All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan and forward Patrick Patterson tied for team scoring honors with 22 points apiece. Tyreke Evans paced the Pelicans by dropping in 23 points off the bench, while All-Star power forward Anthony Davis posted 19 points and seven rebounds.
Davis is coming off the best statistical performance of his two-year NBA career, a dominant 40-point, 21-rebound outing against Boston. The Pelicans prevailed 121-120 in overtime over the Celtics, in one of the most exciting games of the 2013-14 season.
Tyreke Evans vs. Terrence Ross