Pelicans erase 18-point hole, beat Raptors

Alexis Ajinca capped a 16-point performance with a go-ahead layup in the final minute, and the New Orleans Pelicans erased an 18-point deficit en route to a 100-97 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Monday night.

Luke Babbitt scored a season-high 18 for New Orleans, including a 3-pointer that gave the Pelicans their first lead of the game with 1:55 to go.

The clutch outings by the two reserves helped New Orleans overcome the absence of All-Star Anthony Davis and fellow forward Ryan Anderson, who were both injured Saturday night in Miami.

Newly acquired Norris Cole scored 15 for New Orleans. Omer Asik added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Tyreke Evans had 13 points and 12 assists.

Kyle Lowry scored 22 for Toronto, but missed a driving layup for the lead with 6 seconds left when he was blocked by Asik, who also snared the rebound. Jimmer Fredette then hit a pair of free throws for New Orleans, and Lowry’s 27-foot attempt for a tie missed.

Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and 14 rebounds for Toronto, which lost its second straight.

James Johnson scored 15 points and DeMar DeRozan 14 for Toronto, but the Raptors hurt themselves by missing nine of 31 free throws and missing 18 of 23 3-point attempts.

The result gave New Orleans a 2-0 sweep of the season series, with the Pelicans overcoming double-digit, fourth-quarter deficits in both games.

While Toronto leads the Atlantic Division, the Pelicans are desperate to stay in the Western Conference playoff race without key players. Davis is expected to miss a week or two with his sprained right shoulder, and Anderson up to a month with his sprained right knee.

Down 62-49 with eight minutes left in the third quarter, New Orleans began to claw back when Gordon hit a 3, marking the start of a 17-8 run over the next six minutes.

The Raptors briefly regained a 10-point lead on Terrence Ross’ 3 early in the fourth quarter, but again, the Pelicans clawed back with a 10-2 run during which Cole scored seven points, including a 3.

New Orleans finally took its first lead of the game, at 94-93, on Babbitt’s fourth 3 with 1:55 left, then briefly went ahead 96-93 on Evans’ driving layup.

Toronto called timeout, then scored the next four points to retake the lead, before Ajinca’s go-ahead basket with 50 seconds left.

Valanciunas had 13 points and Lowry 12 in the first half, and the Raptors built their largest lead when James Johnson’s layup made it 51-33.

The Pelicans might have fallen farther behind if not for Ajinca, who scored 10 points in his first 12 minutes on the court. Babbitt added eight of his points in the second quarter, helping New Orleans trim its deficit to 56-44 at halftime.