RAPTORS IN CHARGE
Valanciunas takes one for the team in 122-118 win over Pelicans
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.”
Raptor high scorer DeMar DeRozan hangs on under pressure from Darius Miller of the Pelicans at the ACC.