Prior to the Pelicans taking on the league-leading Toronto Raptors on Monday night, Toronto coach Nick Nurse had high praise for New Orleans.
“They’re an offensive juggernaut,” he said. “They’re trying to hit you quick, with everything that they do. If you think you’re going to ease into possessions defensively… they’re going to score on you.”
Perhaps unfortunately for Nurse, his assessment was spot on in a 126-110 Pelicans road victory over the Raptors. Thanks to a 17-point, first-half effort from E’Twaun Moore, New Orleans wasted little time jumping out to a lead against a Raptors team that had been unbeaten on their home floor.
“I thought we did a good job,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We started the game the right way.”
Moore was one of three Pelicans to top 20 points in the victory.
“E’Twaun was being E’Twaun,” Pelicans forward Anthony Davis said. “He can do more than just shoot the ball. He can put it down and make plays on both ends of the floor. Without his performance, we don't win this game.”
While Moore finished with a season-high 30 points, Davis contributed a dominant performance on both ends of the floor, finishing with 25 points, 20 rebounds, six assists and two blocks in nearly 40 minutes of action. Jrue Holiday added 29 points and a game-high 14 assists and Julius Randle scored 17 points to go with 12 rebounds as the Pelicans snapped a five-game road losing streak.
“We lost five in a row on the road and we’re a better road team than that,” Davis said. “This was a good test for us. The best team in the East and we’re on the road, so we made a conscious effort to get this one.”
Moore nearly eclipsed his 13.6 point-per-game scoring average in the first quarter, scoring 12 points in the opening 12 minutes as the Pelicans led by two after the opening frame.
“I was in a good rhythm,” Moore said. “Anytime you’re in a good rhythm and feeling good you’ve got to be aggressive and take it.”
New Orleans moved to a 66-61 advantage at the half, a season-high in scoring for Raptors opponents. The Pelicans finished the game shooting 55 percent from the floor while holding the Raptors to 40-percent shooting. They also scored 72 points in the paint.
”They’re coming in after a couple of wins, they’re very talented, they were ultra-focused, they made a lot of shots and they played great,” Nurse said. “We tried really hard to fight back a couple of times and then they looked us in the eye and made a bunch of 3s over us or a floater down the lane or a rebound was scoured away from us and they’d dunk it or something.”
New Orleans continued to build on its lead in the third quarter, extending the advantage to as many as 13 points. The Pelicans held a 94-83 advantage heading into the fourth. Though the Raptors reserve unit made an early push to get the lead down to single digits, the Pelicans quickly responded, building the lead back to double-figures.
“We shot the ball well,” Gentry said. “When we shoot it well it opens up everything else.”
Up next for New Orleans is a meeting against the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Wednesday.