postgame: Raptors 107, Pelicans 100 (3/19/14)

by Jim Eichenhofer


Playing unexpectedly without All-Star power forward Anthony Davis, a late scratch due to an upper respiratory infection, the New Orleans Pelicans competed with the Toronto Raptors evenly for virtually the entire game Wednesday. Crunch time was a different story.

Toronto used a big advantage on the backboards in the final few minutes, sparking a late rally that enabled the visitors to post a hard-fought victory. The Pelicans put six players in double-figure scoring, but it wasn’t enough on a night in which they were outrebounded by a 48-34 margin.

Toronto (38-29) was particularly dominant on the offensive boards, grabbing 22 of its own misses. New Orleans (27-40) had just five offensive rebounds.

In addition to being the Pelicans’ leading scorer this season, Davis is also their top rebounder and is No. 1 in the NBA in shot-blocking. Coming off a dominant six-game stretch of averaging 32.3 points and 14.3 rebounds, Davis was sorely missed in the paint against an aggressive Raptors frontcourt.

“The rebounding was tough for us to overcome,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said. “We’d force them to miss, but they got rebound after rebound. We missed a lot of shots, layups in the paint, but the rebounding was not good at all.”

The one-sided battle of the boards proved most costly during Toronto’s pivotal 12-2 run in the final four minutes, which turned a 94-90 deficit into a 102-95 edge with just 45 seconds remaining. Two Raptors hustle plays were back-breakers for the Pelicans, starting with Greivis Vasquez rebounding his own missed three-pointer and turning it into a three-point play with 1:21 left. The former New Orleans player gave Toronto a 99-94 lead.

A few possessions later, with the Raptors up 100-95, Kyle Lowry missed the second of two foul shots, but Amir Johnson tipped in the missed free throw to make it a three-possession game with 45 seconds left.

“We just didn’t board well tonight,” Williams said. “(Al-Farouq Aminu) had 10 (rebounds), and he was the only guy that was (productive). Obviously we missed AD. A lot of those rebounds they capitalize on. They had 18 second-chance points, (with many of them) in the fourth quarter.”

Toronto was also missing a key piece in starting center Jonas Valanciunas, who strained his back during a Tuesday overtime loss at Atlanta. Key Raptors reserve Patrick Patterson was also sidelined by injury.

“There’s no quit in this team even with all the injuries,” Johnson said. “We kept fighting, we played hard defense, we set hard screens. We did everything hard and that’s what got us the win.”

Pelicans rookie Jeff Withey filled in at power forward for Davis, making his first NBA start after he’d received DNPs earlier in the season when New Orleans was closer to full strength. He finished with nine points and four rebounds in 27 minutes.

Withey credited Toronto for making several crucial plays to collect loose balls under the basket. In Sunday’s game, Davis had pulled down a careere-high 21 rebounds.

“Late in the game, it was a big problem,” Withey said of the backboard matchup. “They got a lot of 50-50 balls and that’s something we take pride in. When the other team gets it, they get extra possessions. Obviously that helped them out a lot. (Davis) is a freak athlete. Obviously with a guy who can rebound like Anthony, it’s hard to make up for that.”

New Orleans compiled one of its best offensive first halves of the season en route to scoring 57 points, but only led by a point after Toronto made a run late in the second quarter. Al-Farouq Aminu topped the Pelicans with 19 points overall, including a dozen prior to intermission. New Orleans’ primary offensive weapons Wednesday, Tyreke Evans (18 points) and Eric Gordon (15 points), combined to score 33 points, but 25 of those came in the opening half.