TORONTO — No Anthony Davis or Jrue Holiday?
No problem for the New Orleans Pelicans, at least on this Sunday afternoon.
Tyreke Evans led the way with 26 points — none bigger than his final two, scored with 1.6 seconds remaining — and Raptors swingman DeMar DeRozan missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer as the Pelicans escaped Toronto with a 95-93 win.
“I basically told Tyreke to go make the play,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said.
Before the game, Williams talked about the importance of his team imposing its will and staying committed to its style of play. Despite being undermanned, the Pelicans showed grit and persistence to withstand a comeback attempt by the Atlantic Division leaders.
“I like playing in Canada,” Evans said with a smile. He has career averages of 20.9 points and 6.0 assists against the Raptors.
Pelicans big man Alexis Ajinca scored a career-high 22 points, making 10 of his 13 field-goal attempts in 34 minutes off the bench.
“He’s just got like a fire inside of him, which I love,” Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson said. “He’s such a talented guy, and he’s just been a professional this whole season. Every time I’ve been around him, he’s just a professional. It is tough in this league when you know you can play and, because of personnel, you might not get the time. For him, he’s taken full advantage of his opportunities when he’s been in the game and that, to me, says a whole lot about a player.”
After a disappointing 96-81 loss to the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, the Pelicans (20-20) were grateful to get back on track.
“Yeah, (Sunday was) definitely a bounce-back game,” Evans said. “We didn’t play our game against the Sixers. We came together as a team today and everybody played well. We had guys come off the bench and play well. Alexis, Quincy (Pondexter), Jimmer (Fredette) — those guys put in good minutes for us. We need that from those guys when we got guys out.”
Davis (left foot) and Holiday (right ankle) missed their second straight game. Williams said Davis could return Monday at New York, but he said he won’t rush the former No. 1 pick back into the lineup because of how hard Davis plays.
The Pelicans came out strong against the Raptors (26-14) and held a 21-14 lead after the first quarter. Toronto’s 14 first-quarter points were a season-low.
New Orleans continued its push in the second quarter and took a 50-36 advantage into halftime.
The third quarter was a different story — and a test for the Pelicans. After struggling to score in the first half, the Raptors reeled off 35 points in the third and forced New Orleans into nine turnovers. After leading by 14 points at halftime, the Pelicans went into the fourth trailing 71-64 — a 21-point swing.
“We say you’ve got to take a gut punch,” Williams said. “Most people don’t know how to take a gut punch. We took it tonight in the third quarter. They came out and just blew us off the floor. On the road, after the loss we had the other day in Philly, you would have thought we would have folded, and we did not.”
New Orleans regrouped in the fourth, holding the Raptors to 29 percent shooting while making 63 percent of their attempts. Ajinca scored 10 of his points in the fourth, playing all but 2 seconds.
“Our guys showed a great deal of fortitude,” Williams said. “I thought we just stayed together when things got rocky. I saw it in the huddles tonight, and we didn’t see that in Philly. Guys got together and said, ‘Look, not tonight.’ ”