Game Rap: Raptors 94, Pelicans 87

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

IT WAS OVER WHEN

DeMar DeRozan found Jonas Valanciunas for an easy layup to put Toronto ahead by six with 2:19 remaining. Thanks to a solid defensive effort down the stretch, and a big night from Valanciunas, Toronto picked up a 94-87 victory against the Pelicans in New Orleans.

CARROLL OUT, TUCKER IN

DeMarre Carroll did not play in Wednesday’s contest after spraining his ankle in Toronto’s loss to the Bucks in Milwaukee on Saturday night. With Carroll sidelined, P.J. Tucker took his spot in the starting lineup, starting alongside Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas, DeMar DeRozan and Cory Joseph.

STRUGGLING EARLY

There wasn’t anything easy about the first quarter for Toronto in New Orleans. While the Pelicans shot 47 percent, Toronto connected on just 38 percent of its field goals, trailing 26-22 after the opening 12 minutes. The Raptors didn’t score until the 8:26 mark of the first quarter, as New Orleans scored the first eight points of the game. DeMarcus Cousins led the way for the Pelicans with eight points, while Alexis Ajinca added seven points off the bench. Jonas Valanciunas led the Raptors with six points.

SETTLING IN

The Raptors shook off a bad-shooting first quarter to shoot 57 percent in the second while holding the Pelicans to 47 percent shooting and 20 points. It wasn’t an offensive explosion for the Raptors who scored 23 points in the quarter, but Toronto went into the half down by two points despite shooting just 56 percent at the free throw line (9-for-16) and getting a five-point effort from its backcourt as DeMar DeRozan went 1-for-7 and Cory Joseph went 0-for-3 from the floor. Jonas Valanciunas led Toronto with 15 points at the break, while DeMarcus Cousins led all scorers with 17 first-half points.

MOVING AHEAD

After a rough first half for Toronto’s starting backcourt, DeMar DeRozan and Cory Joseph got things going in the third. DeRozan scored nine points to lead the Raptors in the quarter, while Joseph added seven as Toronto shot 43 percent while holding the Pelicans to 33 percent shooting. The Pelicans were without Anthony Davis in the third after he sustained a left wrist contusion in a fall in the first half and did not return to the game. New Orleans scored just 18 points in the quarter as Toronto took a four-point lead into the fourth.

CLOSING OUT STRONG

With the score tied at 78 and eight minutes remaining, DeMar DeRozan, Cory Joseph and Serge Ibaka checked back into the game after a rest to open the quarter. Thanks to a strong defensive effort, Toronto held New Orleans to just nine points over the final eight minutes of the game while good ball movement resulted in open looks and three-pointers for Ibaka and Patrick Patterson to keep Toronto ahead of the Pelicans. With Valanciunas leading the way offensively though three quarters, the Raptors went to him down the stretch time and again and he came through, connecting on all four of his field goals in the fourth. A beautiful assist from DeRozan giving Valanciunas the layup put Toronto ahead by six with 2:19 remaining. After a DeRozan jumpshot to increase the lead to eight, Valanciunas cleaned up an Ibaka miss with an offensive rebound and dunk to seal the victory and put Toronto ahead by 10 with 43 seconds remaining.

RAPTORS PLAYER OF THE GAME

Jonas Valanciunas led the Raptors with a 25-point, 13-rebound double-double against the Pelicans. It was the 100th double-double of his career, and led Toronto to a much needed victory on a night where DeMar DeRozan was serving as distributor rather than scorer. Valanciunas shot 9-for-13 from the floor and 7-for-11 from the free throw line while adding two assists and a blocked shot in 34 minutes.

A man possessed. @jvalanciunas is your @biosteelsports Performer of the Game. #WeTheNorth

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UNDERRATED RAPTORS PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME

Despite a very quiet first half, the DeMar DeRozan/Cory Joseph backcourt made a difference with more than just points in New Orleans. DeRozan led the team with six assists to go with his 14 points, two rebounds and two steals. Joseph added 11 points, five rebounds, five assists and a steal, while the team was a +13 when he was on the floor.

THAT'S A RAP…

“I was ready. I’m ready every night. I’m waiting for that chance. Give me a chance and I’m going to go and fight hard.”
- Jonas Valanciunas after a 25-point, 13-rebound performance

BY THE #’S

47…Percent shooting for Toronto, 43 percent shooting for New Orleans.

12…Turnovers for the Raptors leading to 15 points scored by the Pelicans. New Orleans turned the ball over 14 times leading to 17 points scored by Toronto.

21…Assists for Toronto, 22 for New Orleans.

25…Points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal for DeMarcus Cousins to lead the Pelicans.

THEY SAID IT…

“I thought we were playing in mud a little bit in the first quarter after being off for a few days, but then I thought we picked it up in the second half.”
- Dwane Casey on ball movement leading to open looks

“I’m fine with that. I know I'm going to draw a lot of attention. I know every night I'm not going to be on, hitting shots, so it’s on me to use what I know I'm going to get every night and that’s attention. Take advantage of it and try to make my teammates better.”
- DeMar DeRozan on serving as a facilitator rather than scorer and setting up his teammates

“It’s easy. It’s easy with him because we have similar mindsets so we talk about stuff earlier before it happens, [then] in the game when it happens, it’s natural and automatic because we’re both going to play hard on defence.”
- P.J. Tucker on communicating with Serge Ibaka about defence

“Somebody asked me before what [P.J. And Serge] bring. First of all, they bring energy on defence. Offence will come, but defence, that’s what we’ve got to do and put some effort in it.”
- Jonas Valanciunas on what P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka bring to the team

UP NEXT:

The Raptors head to Atlanta to take on the Hawks on Friday at 8 P.M. ET.

Game Highlights: Raptors at Pelicans - March 8, 2017

Watch highlights from Toronto's 94-87 road win over New Orleans on Wednesday night.

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Game Highlights: Raptors at Pelicans - March 8, 2017

Watch highlights from Toronto's 94-87 road win over New Orleans on Wednesday night.
Mar 8, 2017  |  03:38

Raptors Post-Game: Dwane Casey - March 8, 2017

Head coach Dwane Casey addresses the media following Toronto's 94-87 road win over New Orleans on Wednesday night.
Mar 8, 2017  |  03:31

Raptors Post-Game: Jonas Valanciunas - March 8, 2017

Jonas Valanciunas addresses the media following Toronto's 94-87 road win over New Orleans on Wednesday night.
Mar 8, 2017  |  01:37

Raptors Post-Game: DeMar DeRozan - March 8, 2017

DeMar DeRozan addresses the media following Toronto's 94-87 road win over New Orleans on Wednesday night.
Mar 8, 2017  |  02:21

Raptors Post-Game: P.J. Tucker - March 8, 2017

P.J. Tucker addresses the media following Toronto's 94-87 road win over New Orleans on Wednesday night.
Mar 8, 2017  |  02:18