The New Orleans Pelicans are getting a brief break in the middle of their most road-heavy stretch of games this season.
The Toronto Raptors are winding down their six-game road trip, tied for their longest stretch away from home this season.
Two road-weary teams will meet Monday night in New Orleans.
The Pelicans went 2-2 on a road trip that ended with a 114-113 victory at San Antonio on Friday. After they face the Raptors, they head out on another four-game trip.
New Orleans was on the verge of losing to the Western Conference-worst Spurs, who had a one-point lead when Victor Wembanyama grabbed an offensive rebound with 11 seconds left and went up for a put-back.
But Brandon Ingram swatted the ball away, Jose Alvarado grabbed the loose ball and passed it up court to Zion Williamson, who drove to the basket for a winning layup with 3.8 seconds left.
“Our two best players came in at the end and made us win,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado is one of several bench players struggling to find consistent minutes on an unusually deep team.
The Pelicans trailed by nine points when Alvarado entered the game for the first time midway through the third quarter and played the rest of the way, finishing with eight points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals.
“We’re still figuring it out, honestly,” coach Willie Green said of his rotations. “Because at any given moment, a lot of our guys have helped us win games. They all have contributed to big-time wins for us.”
The Raptors have lost seven of their last eight and 11 of their last 13 after a 135-127 double-overtime loss at Oklahoma City on Sunday night.
Toronto had one of its worst performances of the season in a 135-106 loss at Houston on Friday night. It played much better against the Thunder, who are tied for the best record in the Western Conference, leading by as many as 23 points but it couldn’t hold on down the stretch.
“It’s a good game for us to learn how to handle (late-game) situations,” Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic said. “There’s a lot for us to learn from this. We did some really good stuff. We just didn’t have enough to finish the game.”
Toronto has to suit up less than 24 hours after playing a 58-minute game to play the second-to-last game of a trip that ends in Charlotte on Wednesday night.
But the Raptors can be encouraged by how they played for most of the game against the Thunder and by the fact that they are getting healthier.
Recent acquisition RJ Barrett returned from a three-game absence and had a team-best 23 points Sunday. Leading rebounder Jakob Poeltl was playing his second game after an 11-game absence and had 19 points and 12 rebounds and newcomer Immanuel Quickley was playing his second game after a three-game absence and finished with 17 points and 11 assists.
“I feel like I’m already catching my rhythm again,” Poeltl said. “Obviously I’m not 100 percent yet. I’ve still got to get my conditioning back.”
–Field Level Media
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