Surprise bowling trip jump starts the New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans Pelicans' Alexis Ajinca, left, moves past a fallen Toronto Raptors' Amir Johnson during first-half NBA basketball game action in Toronto, Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015.

Frank Gunn/AP

After a disastrous game in Philadelphia Friday where the 76ers led wire to wire, Pelicans players thought they were headed for an intense practice session Saturday in Toronto ahead of a Sunday faceoff with the Raptors.

Players and staff boarded the bus, sweats on and shoes in hand, expecting to pull up at a gym.

Instead, they disembarked in front of a bowling alley. Coach Monty Williams called an audible, hoping the change in routine would give his inconsistent team some spark.

"It was really a wonderful surprise," said Alexis Ajinca, who scored a career high 22 points off the bench. "We laughed and relaxed with each other. It helped us mentally re-set."

Indeed, the Pelicans came out strong against the Raptors, holding them to just 14 points in the first quarter, despite the fact they were without both Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. That was one point shy of tying Toronto’s season-low for points in a quarter, and set a new season-low for Pelican opponent points in the first quarter.

New Orleans then survived a tough second half, which the Raptors kicked off with 24-8 run. Tyreke Evans scored the game winning basket, propelling New Orleans to a 95-93 victory.

"To have Alexis come off the bench and go 10-for-13 , his defense was stellar at the rim. I thought he played his butt off tonight," Williams said."Tyreke was a man down the stretch. We had a chance to fold when they made their run in the third. We had guys step up: John Salmons, Quincy, Jrue and AD on thebench, telling guys to stay together and not give in.I thought that was a big difference for us tonight."

The Pelicans are now back at the .500 mark heading into Monday’s game against the New York Knicks.

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