TORONTO â€” Kyle Lowry let go of his 21-foot game-clinching jump shot, and then stumbled backwards into the third row of the Air Canada Centre stands.
The three-time all-star scored with 4.3 seconds left as part of a masterful 33-point, 10-assist performance that lifted the Toronto Raptors 107-106 over New Orleans in overtime on Tuesday.
Moments after just their second win in eight outings, coach Dwane Casey commended the scrappy style of his point guard, calling him “one of the toughest kids I’ve been around.”
“He gets hit more than any all-star that I’ve been around,” Casey said. “He hits the floor. He’s going into the stands. Gets knocked down going to the basket. He’s a tough guy, he’s a Philly kid and he’s going to bounce up. He probably should have been a running back for the Eagles, they could probably use him a little bit.”
Jonas Valanciunas added 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Raptors (30-19), who were playing for the fourth time in five games without all-star guard DeMar DeRozan. Norman Powell added 18 points.
Jrue Holiday led New Orleans (19-30) with 30 points.
The win was anything but pretty, but Casey and Lowry agreed it was a big psychological boost, considering the Raptors have been mired in their worst slump in a couple of seasons.
“We really need it,” Casey said. “It wasn’t beautiful… but I thought the second half we took the challenge.”
Their defence was horrible for large portions again Tuesday as they fell behind by 14 points. But they came out aggressive after halftime, sparked by an energetic DeMarre Carroll, and a big third quarter got them back in the game. The Raptors led 77-75 with one quarter to play.
“The way that second quarter ended, and the way we came into the locker-room, to finish that game with a win, I’m glad we got a chance to get that win,” Lowry said. “It was like a funeral in here (at halftime). We were all just down and out of it.”
E’Twaun Moore lit it up from three-point range in the fourth quarter. His fourth basket from beyond the arc came after back-to-back threes from Lowry, and gave the Pelicans, who are 11th in the Western Conference, a two-point lead with 3:10 to play, much to the dismay of the capacity crowd of 19,800 angst-ridden Raptors fans.
The game remained tied for the final 2:08 of regulation after a Patrick Patterson basket. Holliday missed on a shot at the buzzer to send the game into five minutes of extra time.
Neither team led by more than two points in overtime before Lowry drilled a three, and pointed a finger skyward in salute, with 1:57 left that put Toronto up by four. Back-to-back buckets by Anthony Davis tied it up with 29 seconds left.
With the clock ticking down, Lowry fought hard to get a shot off over New Orleans’ Solomon Hill for the game-winning bucket directly in front of the Pelicans’ bench.
Lowry laughed at Casey’s Philadelphia Eagles comment, saying “Yeah, I’d be really good for that team.”
But he said he doesn’t mind taking a beating in games.
“Whatever it takes to win, don’t matter, I’ll be all right,” Lowry said. “I take care of my body, I do a good job of managing my body and doing the right things to make sure I can do these things and take hits, and go out there and play.”
Patterson said he hoped the win was a turning point for Toronto.
“Getting the win is huge,” Patterson said. “With the way we’ve been playing, the way we’ve been losing, we’re lacking energy and effort, continue to not close out games, losing to some teams we feel we should have won against. It’s very good for us.”
DeRozan, meanwhile, was shut down after the team’s medical staff noticed swelling after he logged 36 minutes on Sunday night, and decided to sit the three-time all-star for both Tuesday’s game and Wednesday’s against the Celtics in Boston.
DeRozan, who leads the team offensively with 27.8 points a night, injured the ankle on Jan. 22 versus Phoenix, then missed the next three games.
The Raptors opened with a roller-coaster first quarter that saw them trail by five, then lead by five after a 10-0 run. But New Orleans closed with an 8-0 run of their own and led 25-23 to start the second.
Holiday’s three with 4:40 left in the first half capped a 15-2 Pelicans run and gave the visitors a 10-point lead. New Orleans would end the half with a 7-0 to head into the locker-room at halftime up 60-46.
Powell led the way with 12 points as the Raptors roared back in the third quarter, outscoring the Pelicans 31-15 in the frame.
The Raptors are on the road for their next three games. Following Boston, they head to Orlando on Friday then Brooklyn on Sunday before heading home to host the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 6.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press