Valanciunas leads Raptors over Pelicans 100-81
TORONTO (AP) The Raptors marked the return of a key defender from injury by smothering the Pelicans on Friday night.
With DeMarre Carroll back in the starting lineup, Jonas Valanciunas had 20 points and 10 rebounds, DeMar DeRozan added 15 points and 11 assists and Toronto pulled away in the second half for a 100-81 win over New Orleans.
Carroll returned after missing three games with a sore right heel and helped the Raptors outscore the Pelicans 60-41 in the second half.
''My timing was off in the first half but it felt great to be out there with my teammates,'' said Carroll, who had 11 points and five rebounds in 34 minutes. ''To get back out there and to be a relief to some of the guys like Kyle (Lowry) and DeMar on the defensive end.''
After trailing by nine points during the first half, the Raptors turned a 40-40 halftime tie into a rout against the banged-up Pelicans - New Orleans was without five regulars.
''We felt that we were not playing the style of basketball that we knew we could play at both ends,'' DeRozan said of Toronto's halftime talk. ''We had to pick it up and get some stops, try and get out in transition and change the tempo of the game to our pace.''
The Raptors hit just 2 of 10 3-point attempts in the first half, but made 7 of 11 from beyond the arc in the second half. The Raptors also clamped down on defense, holding New Orleans to just 6 of 21 in the fourth quarter.
''In the second half, they got into us and played with a lot more intensity and we didn't respond well,'' New Orleans head coach Alvin Gentry said. ''We didn't move the basketball.
''We started to go too much 1-on-1 and that really helped their defense.''
The Pelicans are now winless in five games on the road this season.
Five Raptors scored in double-figures, including Lowry with 20 points. Toronto begins a five-game road trip Sunday night at Sacramento and plays 11 of its first 15 games of the season on the road.
Guards Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday led New Orleans. Gordon had 30 points and Holiday added 19.
PRAY FOR PARIS
New Orleans' French center Alexis Ajinca admitted his mind was far from the court after Friday's terror attacks in Paris. He worried about his family, including a cousin who was at the soccer match at Stade de France that was rocked by the sound of nearby explosions. Ajinca wrote ''Pray for Paris'' on his sneakers and asked his Twitter followers to ''Pray for my family and friends'' prior to the game.
''During the whole game I was trying to get this out of my mind so I was able to stay focused,'' he said. ''It felt weird. I was thinking about it the whole game.''
Tied at 40 starting the third quarter, the Raptors hit eight of their first 13 shots in the second half to open up a seven-point lead and never trailed again.
ARE COMET AND CUPID GOOD TO GO?
The Pelicans may be decimated by injuries, but coach Alvin Gentry hasn't lost his sense of humor. As he was running off the lengthy list of injured players, he added ''Dancer and Prancer and Rudolph'' from Santa's reindeer lineup.
BUFFALOED: Tyrod Taylor, the Buffalo Bills starting quarterback, sat courtside and was presented with his familiar No. 5 in a Raptors jersey before throwing autographed footballs into the crowd during a timeout.
HE SAID IT: ''Maturity. I think that's the main thing. Jonas is growing up. I've been preaching that now since I've been here, it's just going to take time. Everybody wanted him to be this superstar when he first walked into the United States, and that's hard to do in this league.'' Raptors coach Dwane Casey on Valanciunas.
The Pelicans dropped to 0-4 against Eastern Conference teams this season. ... New Orleans guard Ish Smith came into the game averaging 10.1 points and 8.4 assists per game so far this season, but had just six points and four assists in 23 minutes. ... The 81 points was a season-low for the Pelicans. They have now scored fewer than 100 points in six of their nine games. ... DeMar DeRozan missed his first five shots of the night but made five of his last seven. ... Toronto forwards Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira have been sent to Raptors 905, the team's NBA Development League affiliate, which plays its first game Saturday night against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
New Orleans visits the New York Knicks on Sunday. Toronto is in Sacramento on Sunday night.