How can you improve in short order, applying recent lessons and bettering yourself against an opponent trying to do the exact same? That’s the question facing the Toronto Raptors as they visit the New Orleans Pelicans, less than a week after hosting them. In the first meeting, the Raptors played something less than their best basketball but came up with a 122-118 victory anyway, doing a good enough job on the Pelicans’ stars to allow a terrific offensive night take over.
It will be interesting to see how the approach changes in this one, particularly if the chessboard is slightly different for each team due to injury. The Pelicans minimized Anthony Davis’ role, let DeMarcus Cousins fight through some struggles, and handed the keys to Jrue Holiday, an approach that clearly worked on offense. The Raptors, meanwhile, might not be able to hope for as strong a defensive performance from Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas in concert, and their bench last time out wasn’t able to make up the ground it normally makes (the Raptors actually did most of their damage with both Davis and Cousins on the court rather than their staggered minutes).
Two meetings in close proximity are always fun. The Raptors enter on the second night of a back-to-back with two big wins and a gut-wrenching loss in their last three, while the Pelicans are better rested and have just the Toronto loss on their record over the last six games.
The game tips off at 8 on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here.
Norman Powell sat on Tuesday night, and oh boy, did OG Anunoby fill in admirably. Anunoby scored a career-high in points playing a career-high in minutes, had a team-best plus-22 in the team’s best win of the season, and did an admirable job slowing down a perennial MVP candidate in James Harden. This is not a commentary on Powell, who hasn’t found a groove yet this year but whose play was trending upwards before suffering a hip pointer against Boston on Sunday. It’s a commentary on Anunoby, who for a night looked the part of potential starter and who can surely be trusted to fill in again if Powell misses a second consecutive game. It was less than a week ago that Anunoby somewhat surprisingly drew the close-out assignment guarding a red-hot Jrue Holiday against this very Pelicans team, and the Raptors may want to try that look right from the outset here.
If Powell can go, he’d probably slide back into his starting spot. I laid out the case for and against Anunoby staying in the starting lineup, and it seems unlikely a one-game absence was enough for head coach Dwane Casey, who doesn’t like players to lose their jobs because of injury as a general rule, to make a change.
The other rotation choices may be sorting themselves out. A Powell absence cuts things to 11, and Lucas Nogueira was absent in the second half for the second time in the last few games on Tuesday. That could indicate Jakob Poeltl has taken control of that fluid spot for the time being, which would cut things to 10. Fred VanVleet has turned up his play right as it seemed he may have been on the outs of the rotation, and Casey’s been able to play with some three-point guard lineups as a result. He might figure to be the odd man out at some point, though, because playing 11 or 12 is untenable long-term.
Powell is listed on the game notes as out, but check back before tip-off for confirmation.
UPDATE: Powell sits, Anunoby starts. Expect Anunoby to play fewer than the 30 minutes he played last night in his first career back-to-back.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
OUT: Norman Powell
905: Malcolm Miller, Lorenzo Brown, Bruno Caboclo
Since the last time the two sides met, the Pelicans have inched a little closer to health, though not to a remarkable degree. Rajon Rondo is back to help carry some of the load at point guard and shift Jrue Holiday off the ball a bit more often, and New Orleans is expecting him to be capped around 16 minutes on Wednesday. E’Twaune Moore and Jameer Nelson should factor in a little less as a result, though Moore still started Monday with Rondo coming off the bench.
The trade-off for the Pelicans – there can be no good news for this franchise, remember – is that Tony Allen is dealing with knee inflammation and has missed two games in a row. He’s listed as questionable here, and if he sits out, he’ll join Frank Jackson, Solomon Hill, Alexis Ajinca, and Omer Asik on the shelf. Darius Miller has been playing really well in an expanded role and would probably be the beneficiary of an Allen absence, though Allen only played 14 minutes as part of an eight-man rotation when the teams met last week.
Outside of those two notes, things should hold to form for the Pelicans. They rely immensely on DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Jrue Holiday, with all three ranking in the top five in minutes per-game. The Raptors did a good job frustrating Cousins last time out and neutralized Davis’ volume, with the trade-off resulting in non-All-Star Pelicans, and Holiday in particular, having a field day. It will be interesting to see if they tilt that balance of focus at all here.
UPDATE: Rondo starts, Allen sits.
PG: Rajon Rondo, Jameer Nelson
SG: Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Ian Clark
SF: Dante Cunningham, Darius Miller
PF: Anthony Davis
C: DeMarcus Cousins, Cheick Diallo
OUT: Tony Allen, Frank Jackson, Solomon Hill, Alexis Ajinca, Omer Asik
G-League (no affiliate): Charles Cooke, Jalen Jones
- Over at The Athletic, I laid out the case for and against OG Anunoby staying in the starting lineup. RR readers can get 20 percent off a subscription at this link.
- A good piece here from Jeff Siegel on the Raptors’ young bench.
- The Raptors return home for a pair over the weekend after this one. Later this month we’re giving away another pair of tickets with InTheActionSeats.com:
— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) October 21, 2017
- The Raptors are holding a design contest where fans can submit gameday graphics the team may use. Details here.
Attn: Designers: We want YOU to design our Game day graphic. Submit using #MyRapsDesign.
1st up 11/12 @ BOS
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 7, 2017
The Raptors opened as 1.5-point underdogs and the line has since moved to Pelicans -2.5. The over-under nudged from 217.5 to 218.5.