With New Orleans Pelicans All-Star power forward Anthony Davis out with an upper respiratory infection, the Toronto Raptors had a golden opportunity, and they took advantage of it.
Toronto grabbed 22 offensive rebounds in beating the Pelicans 107-100 on Wednesday night at Smoothie King Center.
“You know, it was tough for us to play defense, force them to miss, and then they get rebound after rebound,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said.
“We missed a lot of shots and layups in the paint, but the rebounding tonight was not good at all. Twenty-two offensive rebounds is hard to overcome.”
The Raptors (38-29) outrebounded the Pelicans 48-34, and All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan scored 31 points, offsetting 53.7 percent shooting by New Orleans, which had six players score in double figures.
The loss put the Pelicans 3-3 in this homestand going into Friday’s game at Atlanta. As is often the case, the Pelicans (27-40) still had a chance to win late in the game.But they allowed four offensive rebounds and turned the ball over twice, as the Raptors outscored them 15-6 during the last 4½ minutes.
Once again, a bad quarter sealed New Orleans’ fate. The Pelicans scored just 15 in the fourth.
“I thought our defense led to our offensive rhythm,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “The last five minutes says a lot about who we are. That was huge.”
Although Toronto played without starting center Jonas Valanciunas, Davis’ absence was conspicuous. Al-Farouq Aminu led New Orleans with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Tyreke Evans scored 18 and Eric Gordon 15, but none in the second half. The two combined for 25 points in the first half but just eight in the second half, as the Raptors cut off their drives to the basket.
“They were hedging a defender toward us and making it hard for us to get to the rim,” Evans said. “They wanted to let our big men beat them.”
Raptors backup point guard Greivis Vasquez, traded by the Pelicans last summer in the deal that brought Evans, scored 14 points but had nine in the fourth quarter, seven in the last two minutes.
Paired with starter Lowry, he proved effected when it counted most.
Vasquez drove for a floater with 1:58 left. Then, after missing a 3-point attempt, followed the shot, grabbed the rebound, drove for basket and was fouled. He made the free throw, giving the Raptors a 99-94 lead with 1:21 left.
“I thought I had made the 3-pointer,” he said. “But I went after the ball, got the layup and the foul. That was huge. I’m just glad we got the win, because we had a tough loss Tuesday in Atlanta.”
Power forward Tyler Hansbrough, filling in for Valanciunas, led Toronto with a game-high 13 rebounds, and he and center Amir Johnson each grabbed six offensive rebounds.
Johnson tipped in Lowry’s missed second free throw with 48 seconds left, it gave the Raptors a 102-95, all but sealing the victory.
The Pelicans and Raptors had been locked in a back-and-forth game, but New Orleans gained a 94-90 edge with 4:26 left behind Anthony Morrow, who answered two Toronto baskets around a drive by Evans.
But Hansbrough grabbed key offensive rebounds that kept the Pelicans from expanding their lead.
Johnson scored consecutive baskets, the second on a pick-and-roll with Vasquez to tie the score at 94 with 3:35 left.
New Orleans spent the third quarter turning back the Raptors, the last time in the final 50 seconds, in taking an 85-81 lead into the fourth quarter.
Vasquez sank a fastbreak 3-pointer with 54.4 seconds left to tie the score at 81.
But Aminu drove for a basket 13 seconds later. Then, after Lowry turned the ball over, Rivers drove for a basket with 16.7 seconds showing.
Gordon helped get the Pelicans off to a good start with 12 points, as New Orleans ended the first quarter with a 32-24 lead. The Pelicans shot 81.3 percent (13-of-16) and outscored Toronto 20-2 in the lane and 6-0 on fas-break points.
New Orleans led 54-44 with 2:37 left in the second quarter. That is when Toronto went on its first late tear, a 12-3 run to close to 57-56 when the half ended.