RAP­TORS IN CHARGE

Valan­ci­u­nas takes one for the team in 122-118 win over Pel­i­cans

Toronto Star - - SPORTS - DOUG SMITH SPORTS RE­PORTER

Rap­tor Jonas Valan­ci­u­nas takes a charge from Pel­i­cans big man DeMar­cus Cousins, who was hit with an of­fen­sive foul in Thurs­day night’s en­counter at the ACC. Valan­ci­u­nas grabbed 13 re­bounds in a game that was light on de­fence and fun to watch, Doug Smith writes. More Rap­tors-Pel­i­cans,

It was a fun game, and that’s what early-sea­son NBA games are sup­posed to be: lots of shots, lots of scor­ing, and the in­tense de­fence can wait un­til the play­offs get closer.

It might not be pre­cisely the way coach Dwane Casey likes it, but after his Toronto Rap­tors ral­lied to beat the New Or­leans Pel­i­cans 122-118 in ba­si­cally a last-guy-with-the-ball­wins game at the Air Canada Cen­tre, he grudg­ingly ac­cepted what had tran­spired.

“The game is chang­ing. It’s three­p­oint­ers. It’s a scor­ing game,” Casey said after the Rap­tors ran their record to 7-4 and halted a three-game Pel­i­cans win­ning streak be­fore the usual sell­out crowd.

“You’ve got to be able to score, but also you have to have some sem­blance of de­fence and we didn’t.”

It ended up not mat­ter­ing that much be­cause the Pel­i­cans faded down the stretch of a game they looked to be in con­trol of.

Serge Ibaka hit a huge three-pointer to give the Rap­tors a five-point lead with two min­utes to go, and then it was DeMar DeRozan time and he iced the game by scor­ing six of his 33 points the rest of the way.

It wasn’t the ex­pected Pel­i­cans who dom­i­nated the Rap­tors. They ba­si­cally held DeMar­cus Cousins and An­thony Davis in check as they com­bined for 38 points, more than 20 be­low their av­er­age. It was Jrue Hol­i­day who got away from Toronto, pour­ing in 34 points. So dom­i­nant was Hol­i­day that the Rap­tors used rookie for­ward OG Anunoby on him for a large chunk of the fourth quar­ter, throw­ing a dif­fer­ent look at the Pel­i­cans point guard.

Anunoby was more ef­fec­tive than any­one else de­fen­sively and he added a three-pointer from the cor­ner 122 118 plus a drive-and-dunk to the fi­nal five min­utes.

But hav­ing to ask a six-foot-eight rookie to stop a six-foot-four, nineyear veteran is an in­dict­ment of the play by the Rap­tors’ guards.

“He’s un­ortho­dox in the way he does it, but he knows how to play. He knows how to play on the de­fen­sive end.,” Casey said of Anunoby. “Now, I got a lit­tle ner­vous when it got to the of­fen­sive end. He trav­elled a cou­ple of times, but that’s what you have to live with a rookie and I’m go­ing to live with him. That kid’s gonna be . . . a spe­cial de­fender for us.”

Kyle Lowry man­aged to score 18 points and dish out seven as­sists but he was hardly dom­i­nant, and Delon Wright made a cou­ple of three­p­oint­ers. But what gains they made of­fen­sively were taken away by Hol­i­day’s 14-for-20 night from the field.

The Rap­tors went into the game hop­ing to use their depth with three ca­pa­ble cen­tres to com­bat the for­mi­da­ble Cousins-Davis duo. That lasted less than a minute when the first big man off the bench, Lu­cas Nogueira, picked up three per­sonal fouls in a light­ning-quick 87 sec­onds and he was lost for most of the night.

Jakob Poeltl filled in with the backup group, with Nogueira nailed to the bench, play­ing into Casey’s con­tention that he’s got to use all three cen­tres de­spite the fact it might mess with their rhythm a lit­tle bit. Turns out two did the trick.

For DeRozan, 11 of his points came from the free-throw line as he con­tin­ues to draw fouls de­spite a mi­nor NBA rule change meant to take away one of his best moves. A dis­tinct shoot­ing mo­tion must have al­ready be­gun when the player gets hit, rather than con­tact that forces the player to ini­ti­ate a shot, and it’s had no dis­cernible im­pact on DeRozan.

“Ob­vi­ously a lot of things have changed with the rule and ev­ery­thing, but it’s an­other ad­just­ment to where you just have to fig­ure it out,” DeRozan said. “As long as you stay ag­gres­sive it’s go­ing to come back around.”

RICK MADONIK/TORONTO STAR

RICK MADONIK/TORONTO STAR

Rap­tor high scorer DeMar DeRozan hangs on un­der pres­sure from Dar­ius Miller of the Pel­i­cans at the ACC.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.