Gameday: Pelicans @ Raptors, March 4

Toronto remains shorthanded as they finish up a four game homestand.

The undermanned Toronto Raptors (23-38) conclude a four-game home set on Tuesday night, as they host the New Orleans Pelicans (36-25) at Scotiabank Arena.

When these cross-conference squads faced off a month ago it wasn’t one for Raptors fans to remember, as Toronto was beatdown by a score of 138-100 by New Orleans. It was the eighth-largest margin of defeat in franchise history and a game where the Raptors were down by as many as 45 points en route to said loss.

Granted the Raptors were without RJ Barrett, but no one else in the starting lineup made a major impact either. Scottie Barnes had a relatively mild game (by his lofty standards), finishing with 17 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. Immanuel Quickley had arguably his worst (or at least, quietest) game as a Raptor, finishing with eight points and six assists on 3-for-10 shooting.

Toronto’s lone bright spot in the contest was Gradey Dick, who ended up playing 30 minutes off the bench. This was arguably Dick’s best game during his impressive stretch, post-conditioning stint, as the 20-year-old scored a career-high 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting and drilled four of his eight attempts from deep.


It might’ve been the peak of his performances during this recent span of play but hardly his only solid outing. Since the month of February, Dick is averaging 11 points on shooting splits of 55 per cent from the field and 49 per cent from distance, a major turnaround from the start of the season. In the last five games, those numbers have bumped up even more, as he’s averaged 13.2 points on 58.7 per cent shooting from the field and 52.2 per cent from beyond the arc.

On the other side, the Pelicans were led by Brandon Ingram who notched a season-high 41 points to go with six rebounds and nine assists. The forward also hit 8-of-11 triples, and at one point he hit five threes in a row as he torched the Raptors, who had no answer for him.

Pelicans Scope

(36-25 | 5th in West | Offensive Rating: 117.7/12th | Defensive Rating: 113.1/7th)

If Ingram’s outburst against Toronto wasn’t enough to instil concern heading into this matchup, how about the fact that he’s been on a mini-heater as of late. The former All-Star has dropped 30-plus points in New Orleans’ last two games and surpassed 20 points in four of their last five.

The Pelicans most recent victory came against the Indiana Pacers, a convincing 129-102 win where Ingram put up 34 points. They were incredibly efficient both inside and outside the arc as they shot over 60 per cent on two-point attempts, and over 46 per cent from downtown.

It’s going to be a challenge for the Raptors to try and limit that high-level production as their defence didn’t have many answers last time out. In their previous matchup, New Orleans converted at a 57 per cent clip inside the three-point line and 42 per cent from outside it.

More than their strong shooting, it was their dominance on the glass that really hurt Toronto. The Pelicans grabbed 13 more rebounds, were a plus-seven on second-chance points, and most of all, they simply ended up with way more scoring opportunities out of those possessions. By the end of the game, New Orleans had taken 20 more shots than the Raptors (104 vs. 84 FGAs), and that kind of volume discrepancy is hard to overcome a lot of the time.

Raptors Scope

(23-38 | 12th in East | Offensive Rating: 114.4/19th | Defensive Rating: 117.6/23rd)

Without the services of Jakob Poeltl (along with Scottie Barnes), it’s going to be a challenge for the Raptors to find success on the glass, as they try and ensure they don’t get outshot by such an extent this time around.

However, there is some optimism in the fact that the Raptors have seen some solid play out of key contributors as of late. Aside from Dick, who’s been mentioned, another player who seems to be figuring it out with an increased opportunity is Ochai Agbaji.

The former lottery pick was chosen to start in place of the injured Barnes, in their latest 111-106 win over the Charlotte Hornets, and he looked solid in his time. By no means could Agbaji replicate the Raptors’ All-Star’s production, but he’s at least attempted to approximate it.

He put up 13 points in that contest (albeit on 6-of-20 shooting) to go with nine rebounds and two blocks, and interestingly, Agbaji was somewhat of a facsimile to Barnes by Darko Rajakovic throughout the game. The shot volume was less than ideal, but given the Raptors’ lack of depth, someone needs to seize the opportunity moving forward, so kudos to him for at least trying.

Meanwhile, the duo of Barrett and Quickley, for at least one game, stepped up in the absence of Barnes and managed the offence relatively well. It wasn’t pretty, like when they had nine first-half turnovers, or when they went four minutes without a field goal in the fourth quarter, but they found a way to make it work.

The backcourt pairing combined for 45 of Toronto’s 111 points (40 per cent), 16 of 27 assists (59 per cent), and 15 of their 45 rebounds (33 per cent)

Rajakovic decided to simplify the offence and it came down to creating downhill drives, either through screens or timely cuts, and then making reads and finding ready shooters beyond the arc or slashers under the basket.

With that being said, the offence may sputter at times against the Pelicans, but there is at least a formula that seems repeatable. The bigger question mark will be on the defensive end, and trying to limit a New Orleans squad that has averaged 119 points in their last three outings and shellacked Toronto by scoring 138 points previously. Whereas the Raptors have been reeling a bit as of late on defence, giving up over 120 points in four of their last five contests.

Game info

Tip-Off: 7:30 pm EST | TV: SN | Radio: SPORTSNET 590

Raptors lineup

PG: Immanuel Quickley, DJ Carton

SG: Gary Trent Jr, Gradey Dick, Javon Freeman-Liberty, Jahmi’us Ramsey 

SF: RJ Barrett, Jordan Nwora, Garrett Temple, Jalen McDaniels

PF: Ochai Agbaji, Chris Boucher

C: Kelly Olynyk, Jontay Porter, Mouhamadou Gueye

Inactives: Scottie Barnes (hand), Bruce Brown (knee), Jakob Poeltl (finger)

Pelicans lineup

PG: CJ McCollum, Jose Alvarado

SG: Herb Jones, Jordan Hawkins

SF: Brandon Ingram, Trey Murphy III, Matt Ryan

PF: Zion Williamson, Naji Marshall

C: Jonas Valanciunas, Larry Nance Jr., Cody Zeller, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

Inactives: Dyson Daniels (knee), Malcolm Hill (two-way), E.J. Liddell (on assignment), Dereon Seabron (two-way)

The line

New Orleans is favoured in this matchup, -8.5 on the spread and -360 for moneyline odds, which given how things went last time, makes sense, especially with Toronto being shorthanded.

The over/under is set at 229, and for what it’s worth, their last matchup on Feb. 5 would’ve hit the over (238). Raptors games have hit the over in three of the previous five, while the Pelicans have met that threshold just twice in their last five contests.