Challenging back to back for Toronto after letting a 23 point lead slip away in Oklahoma City last night. This is the first matchup of the season between these teams, game two at Scotiabank Arena is exactly a month from now.
Raptors scope: 17-32, 12th in East | Offensive Rating: 18th (114.5) | Defensive Rating: 20th (117.1)
Two words to describe the Thunder loss: Growing pains.
On one hand the Raptors played really well against a West contender to have a 23 point lead in the first place, especially defensively. However the eventual collapse and lack of execution on both ends during crunch time are simply expected bumps in the road for a rebuilding team. Scottie Barnes stuffed the stat sheet with 19 points, seven boards, nine assists and three treys, but he was too passive down the stretch.
Yesterday was the first time the Raptors deployed their expected starting lineup in weeks. It was also the first time Toronto won a first quarter since mid January. There were good signs, just need to put together a similar effort for a full game. Easier said than done vs a Pelicans team that hasn’t played since Friday.
Pelicans scope: 28-21, 7th in West | Offensive Rating: 13th (116.9) | Defensive Rating: 8th (113.0)
New Orleans is in the middle of a nine game stretch that has this one home game sandwiched in between two four game road trips. The Pelicans won on Friday in San Antonio but the Spurs made them work for it. Zion Williamson had 33 points, including the game winner and the always amusing profanity postgame.
NOLA features a wide variety of weapons. Seven guys average double figures including rookie Jordan Hawkins, who was selected a pick after Gradey Dick (not a slight). Jonas Valanciunas can be a monster on the boards and will be tough for his former teammate Jakob Poeltl to contain. The trio of Zion, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum combine to average nearly 63 points per game. Herb Jones (if healthy) is one of the league’s premier defenders and Trey Murphy can be a microwave.
The Pelicans are currently in the West’s second tier, along with the Suns, Kings and Mavs. They are dangerous enough to give any team in the top four a serious playoff series (like pushing top seeded Phoenix to six game in 2022) and maybe even an upset, However anybody they end up playing in the first round will provide a steep challenge and they don’t have a guaranteed playoff spot right now. What can they do to elevate themselves to contender status?
Tip-Off: 8pm EST | TV: Sportsnet One/One 4K | Radio: Sportsnet 590
Jontay Porter (back) has missed the last two games. Markquis Nowell, Javon Freeman-Liberty and Kira Lewis are with the 905.
PG: Immanuel Quickley, Dennis Schroder
SG: Gary Trent Jr, Gradey Dick
SF: RJ Barrett, Bruce Brown, Jordan Nwora, Jalen McDaniels, Garrett Temple, Otto Porter Jr.
PF: Scottie Barnes, Chris Boucher
C: Jakob Poeltl, Thaddeus Young
Zion Williamson (foot), Herbert Jones (adductor) and Larry Nance (ankle) are all questionable.
PG: CJ McCollum, Dyson Daniels, Jose Alvarado
SG: Herbert Jones, Jordan Hawkins
SF: Brandon Ingram, Naji Marshall, Matt Ryan
PF: Zion Williamson, Trey Murphy III, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Cody Zeller
Raptors are +11.5, which makes sense. Outside of a couple rough losses to the Bucks and Thunder, the Pelicans have been one of the best teams in the league in 2024. The over-under is 230.