After winning the first three games of a four-game road trip, the New Orleans Pelicans fell just short of returning home with a perfect 4-0 record.
Despite a season-best 34 points from Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans fell to the Toronto Raptors 122-118 in a back-and-forth battle in which neither team was able to pull away.
Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan scoring 12 points in the final quarter, including eight in the final 1:30 minutes, but it was his fourth-quarter assist to Kyle Lowry that Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry pinpointed after the game.
“I thought the biggest play of the game was DeRozan’s drive to the basket, and he falls in the lane, and some kind of way gets it to Kyle for a 3-point shot,” Gentry said.
That put Toronto ahead 109-107 with 3:21 remaining. The Pelicans (6-6) tied the game on the next possession on a hook shot from Anthony Davis, but a bucket from DeRozan and a 3-pointer from Serge Ibaka put Toronto ahead by five. New Orleans didn’t get closer than two points the rest of the way.
DeRozan led the Raptors with 33 points, while Holiday’s 34 points on 14 of 20 field goals led all scorers. DeMarcus Cousins overcame a rough shooting night to finish with 20 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, a steal and blocked shot (and seven turnovers), while Anthony Davis added 18 points. The Pelicans shot 54 percent from the floor.
Though the Pelicans' supporting cast showed up to support Davis and Cousins, Gentry pointed to the little things in the box score that gave the Raptors (7-4) the edge.
“(Toronto) came up with the loose balls, they came up with the offensive rebounds,” he said. “I thought that was the difference.”
The Pelicans turned the ball over 14 times, leading to 19 points. The Raptors also held a 10-4 edge on the offensive glass.
“At the end of the night, off our turnovers and their second shots, they end up with 38 points,” Gentry said. “That’s a lot of points to give up in an NBA game in a situation like that.”
It had Holiday’s teammates disappointed that his big night came in a losing effort.
“Jrue played incredible tonight,” Cousins said. “It sucks that we couldn’t give him the help that he deserved tonight and pull out this win. He had a huge night and carried us the entire night. It kind of sucks we couldn’t be that supporting cast for him.”
After a back-and-forth opening frame, Toronto held a 34-32 edge despite Holiday's 10-point quarter.
Toronto scored the final five points of the half for a 66-60 advantage, but Holiday led all scorers with 24 points in the half on 10-for-13 shooting. After New Orleans shot 57 percent in the third quarter, holding Toronto to just 41 percent, the teams were tied at 92 heading into the fourth.
Holiday, who entered in a shooting slump, credited fellow guard Jameer Nelson with helping to put him in scoring positions.
“Just got some good opportunities, some good plays,” Holiday said. “Obviously with Jameer in the game, he’s kind of the primary playmaker so I just have to sit in the corner and knock in the shots. From there I kind of got in a groove.”
With two road trips already completed, the Pelicans are glad to be headed home. Even if they would have preferred finishing the trip with a win.
“I’ll take this as a successful road trip,” Cousins said. “Of course we wanted to go 4-0, but we ended up 3-1. It’s hard winning on the road in the NBA. That being said, I’ll take it.”