Raptors vs Pelicans Opening Night: Toronto Takeaways
Last night the defending champion Toronto Raptors kicked of the 2019-2020 season hosting the New Orleans Pelicans. When the schedules were announced, this game was circled on many fans calendars. Many fans around the league were excited to see the NBA debut of Zion Williamson. Unfortunately, Zion suffered a knee injury earlier this week and will be sidelined for six to eight weeks. Brandon Ingram started for New Orleans in Williamson’s absence. The Raptors chose to start Fred VanVleet at SG, rather than Norman Powell. This could prove to be a problem for the Raptors moving forward because of VanVleet’s size.
Pascal Siakam led the way for Toronto with 34 points and 18 rebounds, however he fouled out with just under 1-minute left in regulation. Siakam, who signed a four-year max extension on Monday, embraced his role as the new leader of this team coming out and playing tough on both ends of the floor.
Fred VanVleet had a career night also scoring 34 points on 66% shooting. He stepped up and made a couple of huge shots down the stretch. Siakam and VanVleet combined for Kyle Lowry picked right back up where he left off in game 6 of last years NBA finals, playing very aggressive and driving to the basket for contested layups. He finished with 22 points and 6 assists. Marc Gasol struggled to get much going on offense, recording only 6 points. Toronto moved the ball very well and floor spacing improved as the game went on. Second chance points played a huge factor in the game and helped keep the Raptors in the game.
Many people are going to be questioning Coach Nick Nurse’s play call on the last possession of regulation. Rather than attempt to get the ball the VanVleet, the Raptors chose to inbound the ball to Norman Powell at the top of the key to attempt an iso- buzzer beater. This left many fans shaking their heads, because up to that point Powell was only 1-6 from the floor.
Toronto was then able to extend their lead and secure the 130-122 victory in overtime. Both Lowry and VanVleet were able to step up and hit big shots to close out the game. On defense they were also able to force turnovers and not give the Pelicans many open looks.
Overall Toronto played solid team basketball and it will be interesting to see how Siakam and VanVleet can continue to carry this team for the duration of the season.