DeRozan helps Raptors continue mastery of Pelicans
NEW ORLEANS — Defense may win championships, but the Toronto Raptors are on an offensive roll that is igniting their confidence.
One night after scorching the Houston Rockets for 129 points in an impressive road victory — including a franchise-record 45 points in the second quarter — the Raptors turned up the heat in the final three quarters against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night to coast to a 125-116 victory at the Smoothie King Center.
DeMar DeRozan scored 17 of his team-high 25 points in the third quarter and Toronto (9-5) placed six other players in double figures — including Kyle Lowry with 22 and Jonas Valanciunas with 21 — for their sixth consecutive victory over New Orleans.
Lowry nearly had a triple-double, finishing with 11 rebounds and nine assists.
After trailing 30-16 nine minutes into the game — partly the result of seven turnovers — Toronto outscored New Orleans 109-86 in the final 39 minutes.
In the final three quarters, the Raptors shot 62.5 percent from the field (35 of 56), including 12 of 23 from 3-point range (52.2 percent). Overall, they hit 16 of 34 3-pointers, the fifth consecutive game in which they have made at least 10 from long range.
C.J. Miles continued his torrid shooting off the bench to lead the Raptors with five 3-pointers in nine attempts.
“It carried us, but we’ve got to better defensively,” said Toronto coach Dwane Casey. “The offense has been consistent. Guys are getting into a little rhythm. But you can’t live and die with offense. You’ve got to play some semblance of defense.”
The Raptors have won 14 of the last 17 meetings with the Pelicans (8-7).
“We started keeping control of the ball and tried to make things difficult for them,” said DeRozan, who was 11 of 18 from the floor and added six assists. “We did a great job rebounding and getting stops, and once we got stops, we gave ourselves an opportunity to get out in transition and take advantage of that. We’re all finding our rhythm and picking and choosing our spots.”
In addition to his all-around floor game, Lowry threw his body around the court. He took a hard charge on Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins in the third quarter with the score tied at 73.
“My stomach’s on fire right now,” Lowry said. “It’s all good, though. It was a love tap from my big teddy bear, my guy Cuz. I know he didn’t mean it on purpose, though, it’s all good.”
Toronto used a 22-7 run in the final 6:28 of the third quarter to take a 98-86 lead into the fourth quarter. The Pelicans never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.
The Pelicans took their biggest lead at 30-16 on Anthony Davis’ 3-pointer in the first quarter, but Toronto responded with a 29-14 run to take a 45-44 lead.
Rajon Rondo made his first start of the season after missing the first 13 games rehabbing from sports hernia surgery. In 14 minutes, he had four points and eight assists but sat out the second half as a precaution.
“I thought he was fine,” New Orleans coach Alvin gentry said.
“(He) had eight assists in very limited minutes. Just the pace of the game changed. He’s very good at quarterbacking the game and understanding where our advantages and everything are, and I thought he did a good job when he was out there, but it’s hard to do that when your best two players are sitting on the bench in foul trouble.”
Cousins finished with a team-high 25 points and nine rebounds, and Anthony Davis was held to 19 points, getting to the free throw line only once.
Cousins and Davis each picked up three fouls midway through the second quarter.
“Our rotations were bad,” Cousins said. “Communication was pretty bad. We let guys that are known shooters get wide-open shots, so that’s on us. They were the more physical team, obviously.”
NOTES: After playing five minutes Monday night for his first action of the season, PG Rajon Rondo made his first start for the Pelicans. Rondo is working his way back from sports hernia surgery. “We’re just trying to get to the point where we’re building his minutes up,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “It’s not anything that you can rush into. He’s going to have to play himself into basketball shape, and that’s going to take a little while.” ... Toronto coach Dwane Casey said Rondo will give the Pelicans “another quarterback on the floor, another excellent passer, a computer on the floor that can see things. ... He’s a roamer. If you have a one-on-one situation, he’s going to roam and leave, and whoever he’s guarding has to be alert and present themselves. ... Toronto G Delon Wright left the game with an apparent shoulder injury.