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Evans’ late hook helps Pelicans edge Raptors

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TORONTO — It did not look good for the New Orleans Pelicans, when they fell behind by 12 points with 6:39 left in their game against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

They were playing without injured forwards Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday and were coming off a poor game on Friday against the Philadelphia 76ers.

But the Pelicans found a way. And when guard Tyreke Evans banked in a driving hook in with 1.6 seconds to play, the Pelicans came away with a 95-93 victory.

Evans finished with 26 points.

“At some point you have to overcome,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “And I’m always talking about that with our team.”

Reserve center Alexis Ajinca added 22 points for the Pelicans, who led by 16 points early in the second half, but fell behind by seven points after a 35-14 Raptors third-quarter surge.

“It was big for us to have Alexis come off the bench and go 10-for-13 (from the field),” Williams said. “His defense was stellar at the rim, he had a couple of bad fouls but I thought he played his buff off.

“Tyreke was a man down the stretch and we had the chance to kind of fold when they made their big run in the third and we had some guys step up.”

Guard Eric Gordon added 14 points for the Pelicans and center Omer Asik scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points to lead the Raptors, who have lost seven of their past nine games and finished a six-game home stand at 2-4.

“We’re playing in mud right now,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “Confidence-wise we have to come out believing that you’re going to make a play offensively or defensively. We feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. Somehow, some way, we have to get back to playing basketball and not feeling that weight on our shoulders.”

Guard Lou Williams added 17 points for Toronto and guard Greivis Vasquez had 16. Forward Amir Johnson contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds while forward Patrick Patterson scored 10 points.

“I think we are just a step slow on a lot of coverages on the defensive end and our shots aren’t falling,” DeRozan said. “In the first half we missed a lot of easy shots that we normally make.”

Guard Jimmer Fredette hit a 19-foot buzzer-beater to end the first quarter and give the Pelicans a 21-14 lead.

The Pelicans (20-10) led 50-36 at the half, a season low in first-half scoring for the Raptors.

Asik gave the Pelicans a 16-point lead to open the second half before the Raptors (26-14) tied the game at 58 with 4:44 left in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Vasquez off a New Orleans turnover.

Two more New Orleans turnovers led to a pair of DeRozan layups to give Toronto a four-point lead. Williams scored the final four points of the third quarter and Toronto took a 71-64 lead into the fourth quarter.

The Raptors stretched the lead to 12 points early in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Patterson. The Pelicans cut the lead to five on a dunk by Ajinca. The Raptors got the lead back up to 12 on two free throws by Williams.

The Pelicans came back. Evans made a driving layup and missed his free throw but the Pelicans grabbed the rebound and Ajinca tied it with a hook shot with 2:28 to play.

“I was feeling great tonight,” Ajinca said. “My teammates gave me the ball in the right situations and all I had to do as finish so it was a perfect situation for me to succeed tonight.”

Asik made a dunk with 1:54 to play and New Orleans led by two points. DeRozan’s jumper tied the game at 91 with 1:31 to play. Gordon gave New Orleans a two-point lead with 56 seconds left. DeRozan tied it 14 seconds later by sinking two free throws.

After Evans missed a 21-foot jumper with 22.9 seconds left, the Pelicans retained possession. Evans let most of the time expire before he made a driving hook shot that banked in for the winning points.

“We were scoring, we were defending, and we made some big plays down the stretch,” Gordon said. “And, of course, Tyreke, he had some good plays toward the end of the game.”

NOTES: F Anthony Davis (sprained left toe) and F Jrue Holiday (right ankle inflammation) were not in the Pelicans’ lineup Sunday. Neither played on Friday in the loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Holiday has missed three games in a row. They will be re-evaluated Monday before the Pelicans play the New York Knicks. … The Raptors had given up an average of 115.6 points a game over their past seven defeats after allowing the Atlanta Hawks to shoot 60.9 percent from the field in the 110-89 loss on Friday. … The Raptors visit the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday as they enter a stretch when they play six of their next eight games on the road. … The Pelicans finish a five-game trip in New York against the Knicks on Monday. They are home to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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