NEW ORLEANS (AP) Greivis Vasquez drew a round of applause when he first checked in against the team for which he played the past two seasons.
Later, he all but silenced the New Orleans crowd with five straight points that gave his new team the lead for good inside the final two minutes.
DeMar DeRozan scored 31 points, Vasquez finished with 14, and the Toronto Raptors snapped a two-game skid with a resilient 107-100 victory over the Pelicans on Wednesday night.
”I was blessed enough to be out there at the end of the game,” said Vasquez, who was traded by New Orleans after last season in a deal that brought Tyreke Evans to the Pelicans.
”I had a really rough first half and then the second half I was just on a mission,” Vasquez said. ”I like close games, man. I’m not afraid. I would never be afraid. I’m the type of player that would risk everything. That’s how I got (the starting point guard) job here in New Orleans.”
Kyle Lowry scored 23, Amir Johnson added 17 and Vasquez finished with 14 to help Toronto overcome a 14-point first-half deficit and snap a two-game skid. Tyler Hansbrough, playing additional minutes with starting center Jonas Valanciunas sidelined by a sore back, grabbed 13 rebounds, seven on the offensive end.
”That’s psycho-T at his finest,” DeRozan said of Hansbrough. ”He went out there, played extremely hard, got rebounds and came up with some big rebounds late in the game. That’s just him.”
The game was tied at 94 when Vasquez scored five straight points in a 36-second span on a running floater and a driving layup as he was fouled – the latter coming after Vasquez rebounded his missed jumper for one of Toronto’s 22 offensive rebounds.
”It’s cool to have a teammate like that because you see how much he wanted it,” DeRozan said of Vasquez. ”That’s why we call him `Spicy.’ You never know what you’re going to get until you eat it.”
Al-Farouq Aminu had 19 points and 10 rebounds for New Orleans, which was without All-Star Anthony Davis because of an illness. The Pelicans could not deny that Davis’ absence, one game after his career-high 40 points and 21 rebounds in Sunday’s overtime win over Boston, was a factor.
”Obviously, with a guy that can rebound like Anthony, it’s hard to make up for that,” rookie center Jeff Withey said.
Evans had 18 points for the Pelicans. Eric Gordon added 15, but was shut out in the second half, when his playing time was limited after he was called for his fourth foul in the middle of the third quarter.
”Once he got in foul trouble … I think that probably broke his rhythm,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said.
Brian Roberts scored 11 points, while Alexis Ajinca and Austin Rivers each had 10 to keep New Orleans in front for most of the game.
New Orleans led 94-90 on Withey’s free throw with 4:26 left. But during the next 50 seconds, Johnson slammed home a putback dunk and followed that with a driving layup as the shot clock expired to tie it at 94. Next came Vasquez’s five straight points, followed by Lowry’s free throw and Johnson’s tip shot to cap a 12-1 run from which New Orleans never recovered.
”We played decent defense, forced them to miss and they got rebound after rebound,” Williams said. ”We missed a lot of shots, layups in the paint, but the rebounding tonight was not good at all.”
Gordon, Aminu (12 points) and Evans (10 points) all reached double figures in the first half, much of which was controlled by New Orleans. The Pelicans seemed to surprise the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors by racing to an early double-digit lead. Rivers’ driving layup gave New Orleans a 31-18 lead late in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the lead reached 14 points several times, the last on Aminu’s layup that made it 50-36. At that point, there was 5:20 left in the second quarter, which was about all the time Toronto needed to nearly pull even.
The Raptors outscored the Pelicans 20-7 to close the half. DeRozan scored nine during the stint, including a three-point play on a driving layup and a 12-foot fade at the halftime horn that made it 57-56.
NOTES: The Pelicans went 3-3 on their six-game home stand. New Orleans next plays at Atlanta on Friday, then hosts Miami on Saturday to open a four-game home stand. … The Raptors have not lost three straight since making a seven-player trade with Sacramento on Dec. 9.