Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 3/23/14
Greivis Vasquez left a big part of his heart in New Orleans when they shipped him off to Sacramento. A key member of a young and improving team, Vasquez had every reason to believe he had earned some loyalty from the Pelicans organization but it was not to be. This was his first time back in New Orleans as a member of the Raptors and he made sure to leave his calling card. Watching him suffer through a mostly horrid first quarter by the Raptors from the bench, it was clear he wanted this game pretty badly. He admitted as much after the game. “This is a very special place for me because they gave me the key,” Vasquez said. “They labelled me a starting point guard. They gave me a chance to showcase my game. So I do thank coach Monty Williams, his coaching staff and management for giving me an opportunity. But I was really angry when they traded me too. I know it’s part of the business so that makes it a little sour when you come back but you always want to beat your former team.” Vasquez admitted he was kicking himself a little for a poor first half, but put that behind him in the fourth when he played all but 16 seconds of the final quarter and helped his team to victory. “I was blessed enough to be out there at the end of the game,” Vasquez said. “I’ve been wishing I could get out there at the end of these games and (Casey) gave me an opportunity. I had a rough first half and then the second half I was on a mission. I like close games. I’m not afraid. I would never be afraid. I am the type of player who would risk everything.” It was Vasquez with five consecutive points that in a 36-second span with two minutes to go that moved a tied game to a five-point Raptors lead they would not relinquish. “Any time you play against your former team, you have a little bit of extra energy,” Casey said of Vasquez. “I thought he brought it tonight.” The Raptors were in danger of dropping a third consecutive game for just the third time this season until that late game turnaround. Vasquez finished with 14 points in 21 minutes, nine of the 14 coming in that fourth quarter. It was by no means a pretty win, but a necessary one, as the Raptors confidence was starting to wane if even slightly. “I didn’t recognize the team in the first quarter, (New Orleans was) shooting 80%,” Raps coach Dwane Casey said. “I told them they were playing like they were in a rec league in the summer time, but we picked it up.” DeMar DeRozan finished the night with a game-high 31, getting to the line another 10 times, but it was exploits of a lesser known Raptor that had the locker room buzzing after the game. Nando De Colo only played 131/2 minutes but it was impossible to go anywhere in the relieved Raptors locker room after the game and not hear someone talking about the Frenchman’s impact. “Oh, man. He was unbelievable,” point guard Kyle Lowry said. “You can’t forget a guy like that. That’s what I always say, we’re 15 strong. Nando hasn’t played that much but tonight he really changed the game, just moving, speed, defence, just his overall effort and knowledge of the game.” Vasquez was asked if he thought his teammates wanted to get this win for him, but instead of answering the question chose to highlight De Colo’s exploits on the night. “What a great game Nando De Colo played tonight,” Vasquez said completely ignoring the question. “He played great and that’s what this team is all about. Everyone is getting an opportunity and everyone is ready to compete.” For the game, De Colo played 14 minutes and didn’t score a point, but his two rebounds, three assists and energy off the bench were as big a reason as any that the Raptors were able to put such a putrid start behind them. That first quarter the Raptors put in may have been their single worst 12 minutes of the entire season. Offensively, defensively and every other way the Raptors looked like a team that was playing its fourth game in five nights rather than the two in a row they were actually navigating.
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