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Lucas' hot shooting helps Raptors win

The SportsXchange

TORONTO - Toronto Raptors' reserve point guard John Lucas heeded the wakeup call from head coach Dwane Casey at half time.

Lucas scored all 19 of his points in the second half - including going 5-for-5 on 3-point attempts - as the Raptors defeated the New Orleans Hornets 102-89 on Sunday before a crowd of 17,177 at Air Canada Centre.

"He called us out point blank," Lucas said. "He just called us out. And that's what we needed, a wakeup call. That's what we talked about, when we got back out there we were going to play with as much energy as possible, win or lose."

Led by Rudy Gay's 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists, the Raptors won their second game in a row.

Gay has scored 20 or more points in each of his first five games with the Raptors, a franchise record. He had eight of his points in the fourth quarter, when Toronto outscored the Hornets 33-23.

"Lucas came in and just changed the game," Hornets head coach Monty Williams said. "We had a chance to win but he came in and knocked down some shots. He was pretty disruptive on pick-and-rolls and we just settled for too many jump shots."

Lucas played the whole fourth quarter as the reserves got the job done in the second half after failing to do so in the first half. The Raptors led by as many as 13 points in the first quarter but that was cut to three at the half and the margin was still three after the third quarter.

"I challenged the second unit at half time," Casey said. "We struggled a little bit in the first half when the second unit gave up an 11-point lead [after the first quarter] but I challenged them."

"We kind of let the first unit down as a second unit coming in in the first half," said Lucas, whose point total equaled his season best. "We had the lead and let them cut the lead down. That's just something where you've got to come in with a lot of energy. And that's on us, that's on our second unit. And I put that on me being the point guard."

Amir Johnson had 14 points and seven rebounds for Toronto (19-32), and Kyle Lowry added 14 points and 10 assists. Jonas Valanciunas had 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Alan Anderson came off the bench to score 11 points.

Robin Lopez had 19 points to lead the Hornets, while Greivis Vasquez had 16 points, six assists and seven rebounds. Ryan Anderson added 15 points for New Orleans (17-34), and Brian Roberts scored 13.

"[Lucas] ignited them," Ryan Anderson said. "He is the type of player that can come out and really change the flow of the game and he did. That's what coach was talking about before the game. He's the guy you don't want to let come out and not think about. You want to come out and really be tough with him, guard him and answer his run. Obviously he is going to score and he was the spark they needed. He hit some big shots."

"Our bench really picked us up," Gay said. "In the first half they relaxed and we gave away the lead. In the second half they really picked us up and played well and got us that win."

Lucas hit two jump shots to give Toronto a six-point lead with 9:18 to play in the fourth quarter, expanding what was a three-point advantage after three quarters. Anderson made two free throws to bump the lead to eight with 8:55 remaining. The Raptors moved ahead by 10 after Lucas hit his fourth 3-pointer with 7:28 to play. After the Hornets missed a shot, Lucas hit his fifth 3-pointer to increase the margin to 13.

The Hornets moved within 10 points before Gay hit a pair of free throws with 1:21 to play for a 12-point lead. Anderson increased the lead to 14 with a layup.

Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon, held to one point in the first half, made his first field goal of the game, a 3-pointer, with 5:16 to play in the third quarter to pull New Orleans back to within three points. He finished with six points.

The Raptors could not open more than a five-point advantage the rest of the quarter. After each team missed shots in the final seconds of the third quarter, Toronto led 69-66.

The Hornets, who trailed by 11 points after the first quarter, stormed back with the first 12 points of the second quarter. Roberts led the surge with two 3-pointers and a layup. The Raptors came back to lead 50-47 at the half.

The Raptors, following an overtime win at Indiana on Friday, came out with energy on Sunday and led by as many as 13 points in the first quarter. Led by Johnson's 12 points, they led 32-21 after the first.

"We had had a lot of breakdowns as a team, especially on the defensive end," Lopez said. "We had a game plan and didn't execute it."

NOTES: Raptors forward/center Andrea Bargnani, who has played two games since missing 26 games with a right elbow injury, was not in uniform for Sunday's game because of the flu. ... Forward Landry Fields, who missed three games with back spasms, was back in action for the Raptors. He scored four points. ... Gay, then playing for the Memphis Grizzlies, scored 10 points on 3-for-17 shooting against the Hornets on Jan. 27 in a 91-83 New Orleans win. That finished an eight-game slump in which Gay averaged 13.1 points and 35.9 percent shooting. He was traded to Toronto on Jan. 30. ... Gordon entered Sunday averaging 17 points a game since returning to the lineup on Dec. 29 after missing the first 29 games of the season with a patella disorder and a bone bruise in his right knee. He did not play the first time the teams met, Dec. 28, when the Raptors won 104-97 in overtime. ... Gordon had a season-best 27 points on Friday when the Hornets defeated the Atlanta Hawks 111-100. It was the eighth time he has led the Hornets in scoring this season. ... The Hornets visit the Detroit Pistons on Monday. The Raptors play host to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.
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