Gameday: Pelicans vs Raptors, February 23

The odds are tough, but there is still time to snatch a guaranteed playoff spot.

With All-Star weekend in the rearview mirror and none of the core dealt at the trade deadline, the push for a playoff spot begins now.

The next six weeks promise to be wild.

Pelicans scope (30-29, 7th in West | Offensive rating: 16th | Defensive rating: 7th)

New Orleans owned the West’s top seed at one point in December but have fallen into a logjam of seven teams separated by two games (6th to 12th place) thanks to a 10-game losing streak. Injuries were the main reason, and Zion Williamson is still out after missing the last 22 games with a hamstring injury that included a setback. Zion stuffed the stat sheet in November blowout win vs the Raptors with 33 points (12-15 FG), 10 boards, five assists, four steals and two blocks.

The Pels have plenty of supporting talent to stay in the playoff mix though. They won four of their last six games before the break and Brandon Ingram is averaging 29.2 ppg in February. Adding CJ McCollum and former Raptor favourite Jonas Valanciunas to the equation still poses plenty of problems. New Orleans’ young trio of Herb Jones, Trey Murphy and Jose Alvarado compliments a pretty stacked roster that just needs the injury bug to go away in order to be a serious threat come playoff time.

Raptors scope (28-31, 10th in East | Offensive rating: 11th | Defensive rating: 18th)

According to Fred VanVleet, there is still time to make Masai’s “Play in for what?” declaration during the Tampa season ring true once again.

Right now the Knicks hold that six spot. Toronto would win a tiebreaker scenario, having won the season series 3-1. The Raptors have a legitimate nine man rotation that can be used if Nick Nurse chooses. It will be interesting to see who doesn’t start, and how the minute distribution goes for guys who may be coming off the bench like Gary Trent Jr. Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet have led the NBA in minutes per game for over a year now. Does that change?

Speaking of Pascal, he’s a two time All-Star/All-NBA talent but I guess the name recognition isn’t quite there yet.

Game Info

Tip-Off: 7:30 pm EST | TV: TSN 4/5/4K | Radio: Sportsnet 590

Pelicans Lineup

Zion Williamson (hamstring), E.J. Liddell (ACL) and Dereon Seabron (G-league) are out.

Larry Nance Jr. (left core muscle) is probable. So is rookie Dyson Daniels (right ankle), who has missed the last 11 games.

PG: CJ McCollum, Jose Alvarado, Kira Lewis Jr.

SG: Trey Murphy III, Josh Richardson, Dyson Daniels

SF: Brandon Ingram, Naji Marshall, Garrett Temple

PF: Herb Jones, Larry Nance Jr.

C: Jonas Valanciunas, Willy Hernangomez, Jaxson Hayes

Raptors Lineup

Gary Trent Jr. isn’t on the injury report and should be ready to go. O.G. Anunoby (wrist) and Thaddeus Young (knee) are questionable but are both expected to play. Dalano Banton and Ron Harper Jr. are with the Raptors 905. Otto Porter (toe) is done for the season.

This was the latest on O.G. from last night.

*the most predicted line-up, but subject to change based on how previous injuries are managed*

PG: Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn, Jeff Dowtin Jr.

SG: O.G. Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr.

SF: Scottie Barnes, Juancho Hernangomez, Joe Wieskamp

PF: Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, Thaddeus Young

C: Jakob Poeltl, Precious Achiuwa, Christian Koloko

The Line

The Raptors are favoured by six? That’s aggressive. Over/Under is 225.5.

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