Result: New Orleans Pelicans’ win; 113-99 | Box Score
Top Performance of the Night: Kyle Lowry (Raptors) | Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
Toronto — Patrick McCaw (out – knee)
New Orleans — Wenyen Gabriel (out – knee/quad)
It’s not how you start that matters, but it’s how you finish, and this was the demise of the Toronto Raptors tonight. In the first half of the night, the Raptors held a comfortable seven-point lead over the New Orleans Pelicans. Two quarters later, the Pelicans held the last laugh as they came out of the trenches with a 113-99 victory.
It was as simple as this: the Toronto Raptors ran out of juice in the second half, failing to make an outside shot to save their life while the Pelicans were sinking their shots with ease.
In fact, New Orleans sunk 45.2% of their 42 three-point attempts. Meanwhile, the Raptors shot 30.4% from three on 46 attempts. The home side was handed open looks, but they failed to punish the defence with a barrage of clanks from the perimeter. Luckily, shooting 45.2% from the three-point arc is simply impossible to maintain, so it was an anomaly for the Pelicans tonight.
Individually, there weren’t many bright spots for the Toronto Raptors. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam were undoubtedly the two best players for the Toronto Raptors. Lowry recorded 18 points and 10 assists while shooting 7/15 from the field. Siakam earned 20 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists while shooting 8/17 from the field.
Pascal Siakam seemed to be in great form as he showed plenty of shot-creating abilities, but struggled to create separation due to a lack of burst and a war chest of counter moves. Lowry was his usual self, carrying the team when the team fell flat on their face, which is baffling since he is 34 years old.
Other than these two stars, a majority of the players including Fred VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby and Norman Powell struggled in the season opener. As mentioned before, the players just need some more reps under their belts to get back into their best selves. Off the bench, Chris Boucher and Matt Thomas performed admirably well. Despite this, there is a concern for a lack of depth in the Raptors’ bullpen as the other bench pieces were a no-show.
As a team, the Toronto Raptors were a mixed bag. The half-court offence is still a concern, especially considering that the offence was stuck in a rut once the transition attack died down. It seems like a nagging challenge the team will face throughout the season and it won’t change for the time being. On the other side of the ball, the Raptors did as well as they could, but couldn’t stop the fiery shooting of the New Orleans Pelicans. At least they made life a living hell for Zion Williamson as the Raptors sent either Lowry/VanVleet to dig at him or they’d have the nearby big man double up on him.
Overall, the scoreboard misleads the lessons of the night as it seems like the Toronto Raptors were outmatched by a sizeable amount. Most of their issues in this game can be attributed to early season woes and the fact that the team needs some time to get into their groove/mesh well together. They were fantastic in the first half, proving that their transition attack was still top notch while their defence annoyed the hell out of the Pelicans players (mainly Zion Williamson). Eventually, the Raptors’ bubble burst as they looked flat coming out of halftime, playing like five separate players on the floor instead of one cohesive unit. JJ Redick’s soul-killing three-point daggers didn’t help by any means, and Brandon Ingram sealed the night with a handful of impressive buckets.
Two things to note though are O.G. Anunoby and the fact that Nick Nurse decided to sit Malachi Flynn for the majority of the game. Regarding Anunoby, he does not receive the trust of the coaching staff to make the mistakes needed to grow his offensive creation game. He shot 0-5 from three tonight and lacked rhythm to keep himself afloat on offence. If he is to take the offensive leap that everybody dreams about, O.G. Anunoby needs to have more touches on the ball to develop his ball-handling skills/decision-making. On the other hand, Nick Nurse needs to trust Malachi Flynn and play him more than the one minute of garbage time he played in tonight’s game. Flynn is an older rookie, and he was one of the best players in the country in college last year. He’s shown the fact that he can play with the big dogs as he showed poise and impressive offensive/defensive skills during the preseason. Malachi Flynn can make an impact right out of the gate for the Toronto Raptors and it’s on Nick Nurse to allow him to stabilize the second unit.
Just relax, breathe in and out. This may be the first season opener loss in eight seasons, but the Toronto Raptors will be fine. Allow the team some time to get back into their groove before fans fire up the trade machine and create numerous hypothetical trades to bolster the team. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the fact that Raptors basketball is back. It just wasn’t their night tonight.
(Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)