Welcome back! You read the preview, you read The Rap-Up, so you know the deal: the Toronto Raptors are 4.5 games out of sixth place in the Eastern Conference, with 23 games to play.
And they start their effort to make up that ground tonight against the New Orleans Pelicans.
And thIs should indeed be the start of a good thing. The Raptors are healthy, they have a starting centre, and the have won 5 of their past 6 games — and after tonight, the Raptors play four of their next fives games against teams with losing records.
The Pelicans, meanwhile, have won 4 of 6... but that followed a 10-game losing streak that the Pelicans finally snapped on December 2. More notably, and more impactful to their standing in the West, they’re still missing Zion Williamson, with only a vague timetable for his return.
Other than Zion, and Otto Porter Jr., both teams are healthy for tonight.
Note: In late breaking news, the Raptors are saying Fred VanVleet is questionable tonight due to a personal matter. We’ll keep you updated if we hear more! Gary Trent Jr. will start in his place... so ignore bullet three below.
Amongst the things I’m looking for to tonight are…
- Was Jakob Poeltl’s 30-point game an anomaly, or preview of his role with this Raptors team? Not that I expect him to score 30! But can he be a central figure on offense, while continuing to be a strong defensive presence? And how does he look against another true centre, former Raptor Jonas Valanciunas?
- How healthy and happy does O.G. Anunoby look? I mostly want to see how well he does guarding Brandon Ingram, but also what he looks like on offense; how he fits with a true centre to kick the ball out to him and find him on cuts. I think it could look pretty great! But O.G. will likely have to accept having the ball even less.
- How’s the depth? With Gary Trent Jr., Precious Achiuwa, and Chris Boucher, the Raptors truly run 8 deep now. Not that I expect a playoff rotation with 23 games to go, but if everyone buys into their role… well, I think we’re done with the we’ll, I think we’re done with the “Raptors bench scores measly 8 points” headlines.
All right, let’s settle in for the stretch run — and watch!
Where to watch:
TSN, 7:30 PM ET
Toronto Raptors — O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, Gary Trent Jr., Jakob Poeltl
New Orleans Pelicans — CJ McCollum, Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III, Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas
Toronto Raptors — Otto Porter Jr. (foot – out)
New Orleans Pelicans — Zion Williamson (hamstring – out), Dyson Daniels (ankle – out), E.J. Liddell (knee – out)