Raptors beat Pelicans 127-104
Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points as the visiting Toronto Raptors pulled away from the shorthanded New Orleans Pelicans in the second half of a 127-104 victory on Friday night.
Leonard scored 24 first-half points and finished 14 of 20 from the floor. Kyle Lowry added a triple-double with 13 points. Also, 12 assists and 11 rebounds.
Pascal Siakam scored 19 points. While Jeremy Lin had 14. Danny Green 13 and Serge Ibaka had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Pelicans played without 3 starters as Jrue Holiday (abdominal strain) and E’Twaun Moore (quad contusion) were ruled out for at least a week to 10 days. While Anthony Davis was a last-minute scratch because of back spasms.
Also, the absence of Holiday, who had not missed a game all season, led to New Orleans using its 27th different starting lineup.
Jahlil Okafor started in Davis’ place. But left for good in the third quarter because of a sprained left ankle.
Rookie Frank Jackson started in Holiday’s place and led New Orleans with 20 points. Additionally, Julius Randle added 18 points. Cheick Diallo came off the bench to add 16 points and 12 rebounds. Elfrid Payton scored 13. Also, Ian Clark had 11 and Darius Miller 10.
The Raptors led by 3 points at halftime and scored the first 6 points of the third quarter.
The Pelicans cut the deficit to 4 points on 4 occasions before Toronto took control.
Green made back-to-back 3-pointers to complete a 9-0 run that gave the Raptors an 88-75 lead.
The Raptors increased the lead to 16 before settling for a 93-80 edge after 3 quarters.
“Obviously it’s easier to measure or dictate your progression or where you stand against the top teams in the league or in big games,” said Raptors guard Danny Green. “Because even the games that are not big games are very important for where we are rotation-wise. How fast are we communicating and moving and rotating. Offensively, how crisp is our offence?”
They expanded the lead to 21 midway through the fourth quarter. Toronto outscored New Orleans 63-43 in the second half and shot 54 percent from the floor for the game.
Eight Pelicans scored in the first quarter. Offsetting 14 points by Leonard as New Orleans took a 31-29 lead at the end of the period.
Additionally, Leonard scored 10 more points in the second quarter. Therefore making all 4 of his field-goal attempts as the Raptors took a 64-61 halftime lead.
The Raptors have bigger goals and used them as motivation to dig down and get some work done.
“I told them today we were playing soft early. Because we were letting the ball bounce two or three times before someone got a rebound,” said Leonard. “And by me saying that I have to show them a tougher game. If play the same way it’s hard to listen to guy like that.”
Playing the game correctly and with the intent of executing on both ends, even in a game when the penalty for not doing so is likely pretty slight, takes discipline and effort. The Raptors found a way to exercise a little of both.
“It’s easy to just go up and down. Because you [can] make the game a lot easier if you’re not playing hard and you don’t care about winning,” Leonard said. “That’s what makes the game tough, you wanting to make every shot or you wanting to make every defensive play out there and wanting to win.”
Next, the Raptors play Miami Heat next.