When Raptors coach Dwane Casey issued a challenge to his second unit during half time, the message wasn’t lost on John Lucas.
The backup point guard scored 10 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter as Toronto defeated the New Orleans Hornets 102-89 Sunday.
Casey wasn’t pleased to see an 11-point Toronto lead in the second quarter quickly erased as the Hornets went on a 10-0 run with the Raptors second unit on the floor.
“We struggled a little bit in the first half where the second unit gave up a lead,” Casey said. “I challenged them about coming in and being ready to play, perform, you can’t play your starters 48 minutes and they came in and performed in the second half.”
Alan Anderson added 11 off the bench as Toronto (19-32) won its second straight and improved to .500 at the Air Canada Centre this season (13-13).
“He just called us out point blank, called us out and that’s what we needed, a wake-up call,” said Lucas. “We all talked in the locker room and said look, when we go back out there, we’re starting with as much energy as we can – just leave everything we have on the court, cause our first unit gave it everything they had so it’s time for us to step up too.”
Lucas, who had just six points at half time, added three in the third quarter before breaking out for 10 in the fourth to match a season-high
“I thought John did a heck of a job of getting into the basketball with their guards, didn’t get burned with (Greivis) Vasquez and also offensively made some big shots,” said Casey. “He did a great job on that end, so I thought the second unit came in, gave us that spark that we needed.
“We got to get that in the first part of the game and not give up a lead that the first unit did a great job of building.”
Rudy Gay had a game-high 20 points and Kyle Lowry added 14 points and 10 assists, his fourth double-double of the season.
Gay, who came in averaging 24.3 points since his trade from Memphis, became the first Raptor to have five straight games with 20-plus points since Andrea Bargnani (Dec. 28, 2011 – Jan. 4, 2012) last season.
“Our bench really picked us up,” said Gay. “The first half they kind of relaxed and we gave away that lead, but the second half they really picked us up and played well and got us that win.”
Amir Johnson chipped in 14 points with seven rebounds.
The Hornets had 27 of their 47 first half points from the bench led by Brian Roberts, who finished the game with 15.
Robin Lopez’s 19 points led the Hornets (17-34), who lost for the first time in three games. New Orleans guard Vasquez had 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
“As a team we had a lot of breakdowns, especially on the defensive end,” said Lopez. “We had a game plan and we didn’t executed it.”
Jonas Valanciunas, who was making his first start since missing 18 games with a broken finger, had 11 points 10 rebounds for Toronto.
Toronto used a late 9-0 run in the second to take a 50-47 lead into halftime.
The Raptors scored 10 of its first 24 points of the game off dunks highlighted by a monster, uncontested, one-handed jam by Gay.
Sunday marked the final meeting between the Raptors and the Hornets franchise, who will be called the Pelicans beginning next season. Toronto also won their final game against the New Jersey Nets and Seattle Sonics before they changed their names.