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A nearly healthy Raptors team will face the Pelicans in the Big Easy tonight: Preview, start time & more

With Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, and Fred VanVleet back in the lineup, can the Raptors beat Zion and the New Orleans Pelicans?

Cleveland Cavaliers v Toronto Raptors Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

Monday’s Toronto Raptors game saw the end to a short home stand, but also the end to a recent string of injuries and illnesses for Toronto’s side.

Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes returned to the lineup to face the Cleveland Cavaliers after Fred VanVleet made his return from illness over the weekend.

Siakam had been out for nearly a month after straining his groin in a game against the Dallas Mavericks in early November. Scottie Barnes has been nursing a knee injury, while Fred VanVleet and a few others missed multiple games with non-COVID illness.

After winning in an exciting game against Cleveland, with a final score of 100-88, the Raptors are now in the Big Easy to face the New Orleans Pelicans tonight.

Still on the Raptors injury list are Otto Porter Jr. with a dislocated toe, and Precious Achiuwa with the right ankle injury. The latest update from Head Coach Nick Nurse said that it will be at least another “2-3 weeks” before we get an update on a timeline for Achiuwa’s return.

On the Pelicans’ side, they will be missing Brandon Ingram for sure as he battles a toe injury. Larry Nance Jr (shoulder), Naji Marshall (non-COVID illness) and CJ McCollum (COVID Protocol) remain questionable for tonight. McCollum has cleared protocol but the team is unsure where he stands in terms of conditioning.

They’ll still of course have Zion Williamson, the number one pick in the 2019 NBA draft, who is playing well after missing most of his rookie season and the entire 2021-2022 season due to injury.

Make sure to catch the Toronto Raptors take on the New Orleans Pelicans tonight at 8:00 p.m. EST on TSN.

Pascal Siakam is back!

The Raptors REALLY missed Pascal Siakam during the month he was away. He is currently averaging 24.1 points, 7.4 assists, and 9.5 rebounds per game, and up until his injury was among the top ten in MVP talks.

When you watched Raptors games during his absence, you could FEEL something was missing. Yet, thanks to the heroics of O.G. Anunoby and Fred VanVleet, the team has managed to stay above .500 still.

Even on a minutes restriction during his first game back, Pascal Siakam didn’t waste any time getting back to leading this team. In 30 minutes played, he scored 18 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.

There isn’t much doubt that as he gets back in full shape, he’ll go back to being the Raptors’ top scorer. For now, his objective is to continue conditioning, stay healthy, and lead this team to much needed wins.

O.G. for D.P.O.Y.

No fear, O.G. Anunoby is here! Now a serious league-wide candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, Anunoby leads the league in steals per game with 2.4. He’s defended the star player of every team this season and kept them in check.

Quite simply, he is the pillar of the Raptors defence.

With Zion Williamson playing well, it’ll be up to O.G. to keep the young star contained if the Raptors are going to beat the Pelicans. The teams seem pretty even in terms of games (the Raptors are 12-9 while New Orleans is 13-8). Both have struggled with missing players due to injury. It seems like a pretty even match up overall.

The Raptors win games by playing good defence. Therefore, in order for the Raptors to do well, Anunoby must do well. He currently averages 19 points, 2.2 assists, 6 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 1 block per game.

Bench Contributions

Now that the Raptors are creeping closer to being at full health, they can expect more from their bench unit. In Monday’s game against Cleveland, the Raptors’ bench scored 34 of the team’s 100 points.

The Toronto Raptors bench currently sits 11th in the league.

Not absolutely terrible, but there is certainly room for improvement. It is unknown if Nick Nurse will opt to play Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. off the bench again like he did Monday, but that certainly adds a boost to bench points. They scored 11 and 14 points respectively Monday.

There were mixed opinions about bringing those two — who are regularly starters for the team — off the bench. Scottie has been struggling in his sophomore season, while Gary Trent was recently called out by Nick Nurse to be more active on defensive (after which his improvement was visible).

Whether or not Trent and Barnes end up on the bench, that unit needs to make more of an impact. With Pascal returning from injury and possibly still on a minutes restriction, the minutes will be more evenly distributed to others on the bench. They’ll need big performances from Boucher, Koloko, Young and Hernangomez to make up for the absence of Porter and Achiuwa.

With the health of this team in constant flux, the bench needs to adapt to the ever-changing lineups. We know the core of this team has the ability to go far, so now the success of the Raptors team will heavily depend on how deep they can go in times of need.


Don’t miss the Raptors face Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans tonight at 8:00 p.m. on TSN.