Well... it was definitely Zion Williamson’s night in New Orleans as he led the Pelicans to a dominant win against the Toronto Raptors.
It didn’t start that way — Pascal Siakam scored 9 in a row on 4/4 shooting to start the game and hopes were high he’d take over. Yet, there was Zion to score 5/5 from the field to start himself. The rest of the night was very much “there was Zion.”
The first quarter ended with New Orleans up 40-29... and they just kept on rolling. The Raptors lacked energy, defence, offence and just couldn’t put anything together. Zion on the other hand was everywhere, leading they way on defence and offence.
At halftime it was 73-47. The deficit for the Raptors was 27, the highest deficit at halftime so far this season.
The second half did not start very well either. Not even one minute in, Fred VanVleet gets his second technical foul and is ejected from the game. He scored two points overall tonight.
It also looked like, for a short time there, that Coach Nick Nurse was close to getting ejected as well. Luckily, he stayed in the game. He said after the game the team just “couldn’t set up their defence.”
There weren’t many positives from the Raptors in this game, honestly. Only three players scored in double digits for the team overall. No one grabbed more than six rebounds.
Yet, they still were able to bring the lead down to 11 points late in the fourth quarter. Thanks to a few consecutive stops, and Gary Trent Jr going OFF (more on that in a bit), it looked like MAYBE the Raptors were somehow making it a game. But then...
THERE. WAS. ZION.
A steal and few dominant trips to the hoop from the young super star dashed any hopes of a lead below ten points for Toronto fans. They lost 126-108.
Zion Williamson ended the night with 33 points (on 15 shots), 10 rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks. I mean. How do you stop that? You don’t.
Zion's night against the Raptors:— Mason Ginsberg (@MasonGinsberg) December 1, 2022
33 points on 15 (!) shots
What a complete, dominant performance. Toronto just had no answer for him even without BI and CJ out.
So yeah, the Raptors lost. We could talk about the result more or we could try something a little different. Let’s talk about what didn’t work and more importantly, what DID work.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Usually, O.G. Anunoby is the Raptors most solid defender. He was expected to do well on Zion but two early fouls had him sitting on the bench.
Zion is probably the one player in the NBA that is as strong as O.G. Anunoby, and that was apparent as Zion flew past him, shot over him, and got the foul easily while Anunoby defended him.
The only players to score in double digits were Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr., and O.G. Anunoby. Scottie Barnes had four points. Thad Young and Fred VanVleet had two each. If you take Gary Trent Jr.’s points away from the bench, they scored 30 points (spoiler alert: Gary outscored the ENTIRE rest of the bench put together).
WHAT DID WORK
Gary Trent Jr.
Trent Jr. had himself a NIGHT despite the loss. He scored a season high 35 points, and looked like the GTJ we know and love. He was aggressive in the paint, getting multiple and-one opportunities.
It seems like (hopefully) the slump he saw himself in earlier seems to be easing up.
He came off the bench tonight, outscored the rest of the bench put together, and was the most consistent player of the night. Will he continue to play off the bench now? Or will this performance lead him to be rewarded with the start in Friday’s game.
Pascal Siakam is back
P Skills scored 23 points tonight, coming second for the team behind Gary Trent Jr. After spending nearly a month out with injury, he seems to be back to where he was before.
He started the game with nine straight points. He ended it with those 23 points, four assists, and six rebounds. While it didn’t result in a win, the hope is that Pascal Siakam can stay healthy enough to help the Raptors to more wins down the line.
While tonight was a bit of a write off for the Raptors, there isn’t much time to dwell on it. They’ll be back in action Friday night in Brooklyn, and then at home Saturday night for a back-to-back. Tune into the Raptors vs Nets Friday night at 7:30 p.m. on Sportsnet.