TORONTO (AP) Passed over for a place on the Eastern Conference All-Star team, Toronto guard Kyle Lowry is planning on a little rest and relaxation instead.
But Lowry and the rest of the Raptors aren’t thinking about a midseason break just yet. They’ve got important business to take care of first.
Lowry had 19 points and 12 assists, Patrick Patterson scored a season-high 22 and the Raptors beat the New Orleans Pelicans 108-101 on Monday night.
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Coming home after going 2-3 on a West Coast trip, the Raptors set their sights on registering consecutive home wins over New Orleans and Atlanta before All-Star weekend, and a five-day break between games.
”We talked about it,” Lowry said. ”That was the emphasis – we needed to get these games. We want to get both wins at home, protect home court, go into the break with a great conscience.”
Patterson, who made his first Toronto start in place of injured Amir Johnson, echoed Lowry’s comments about not letting up too soon.
”There’s no one on this team that’s not focused. There’s no one on this team that’s not ready to play,” Patterson said. ”We have to go into (Wednesday’s game against Atlanta) with the same mentality that we had tonight. Nobody can focus on the All-Star break, no one can focus on getting away and being with family. We have to handle what we have here and get things done.”
DeMar DeRozan also had 22 points, Terrence Ross added 14 and Tyler Hansbrough scored 12 for Toronto, which has won five consecutive meetings and seven of eight against New Orleans. The first-place Raptors moved three games ahead of Brooklyn in the Atlantic Division by winning for the ninth time in 11 home games.
”We dropped a lot of games earlier in the season at home,” DeRozan said. ”We really took the onus to understand that we’ve got to take advantage of home court and that’s what we’ve been trying to do.”
Toronto’s 27 wins before the All-Star break are its most since the 2009-10 season, when it had 29.
”Tyler and Patrick carried us tonight,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. ”I thought they were huge in their minutes.”
Tyreke Evans had 23 points and 10 assists, and Anthony Davis scored 19 for the Pelicans, who lost their second straight and have dropped four consecutive games in Toronto. Brian Roberts had 18 points for New Orleans, and Eric Gordon 10.
Evans returned after sitting out Sunday night’s loss at Brooklyn. Pelicans coach Monty Williams said Sunday that Evans, the 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year, did not play against the Nets because of an ”internal” issue.
Williams was upset at the performance of his starters after New Orleans was outscored by double digits in both the first and third quarters, both of which Williams called ”really bad.”
”We didn’t get a lot of production from the starting group on both ends of the floor,” Williams said. ”If you look at the boxscores from those quarters, it was just a hole that we dug.”
Feeling worn down on the second night of a back-to-back made coming from behind even tougher, Davis said.
”We were using all our energy to fight back,” he said.
Toronto called timeout after a 6-0 Pelicans run cut it to 85-78 with 9:25 left. Luke Babbitt blocked DeRozan’s shot after the stoppage, and Anthony Morrow’s jump shot brought New Orleans to 85-80.
DeRozan stopped the run with a jumper, but Lowry fouled Davis on a dunk and the Pelicans’ All-Star converted his free throw. One possession later, Babbitt hit a 3-pointer, shaving the deficit to 87-86.
Lowry and Hansbrough each made a pair of free throws to give the Raptors some breathing room before Lowry made a jump hook, assisted on a layup by Hansbrough and fed Ross for a 3 to make it 98-89 with 4:20 remaining.
Lowry finished with seven rebounds, including two on the offensive end inside the final 3 minutes.
”Those were huge, huge offensive rebounds,” an appreciative Casey said.
DeRozan, Lowry and Patterson each scored seven points in the first quarter as the Raptors jumped out to a 31-20 lead.
Toronto pushed its advantage to 38-23 on a 3-pointer by Steve Novak at 9:33 of the second but the Pelicans answered with a 24-5 run, tying it at 43 on a 3 by Roberts with 4:13 to go. New Orleans took the lead on two free throws from Davis.
Davis scored eight points in the second, but a jumper by Patterson with 2 seconds left in the half tied the game at 49.
DeRozan scored five points and assisted on two other baskets as Toronto regained the lead with a 13-3 run early in the third. Patterson scored 10 points in the period and DeRozan had nine as Toronto took an 82-70 lead into the fourth.
NOTES: Toronto began a stretch with eight of 10 games at home. … The Pelicans fell to 13-7 against Eastern Conference opponents. … The Raptors have 20 assists or more in a season-best 11 straight games.