For the third straight game this week, Toronto faces a team they have not seen yet this season. Tonight, they get the New Orleans Pelicans.
A team that has had high expectations since trading Anthony Davis and drafting Zion Williamson first overall in 2019, New Orleans seems to finally be realizing some of their potential this year. With a 28-21 record coming into tonight, the Pelicans sit first in the Southwest Division and seventh in the Western Conference, only a half-game back from avoiding the play-in tournament.
The last time they made the playoffs was 2022, when they snuck into the last spot in the West with a below .500 record by beating the Spurs and Clippers in the play-in tournament. Though they lost to Phoenix in six games in the first round, that season is remembered by Pelicans fans as the year that Zion Williamson missed the entire season due to injury.
Having been relatively healthy since returning to the team last year, Williamson continues to deal with injuries this season and it listed as questionable for tonight’s matchup.
Zion Williamson & Trey Murphy getting more work in at shoot around today.— Pro Pels Talk (@ProPelsTalk) February 5, 2024
Also Spotted Karlo Matkovic inside the facility today. pic.twitter.com/mhoUTi09Kd
On the topic of injuries, RJ Barrett will miss tonight’s game after returning to the Raptors lineup last win in the double-overtime loss to Oklahoma City. Barrett missed three games with a knee injury before returning, and unsurprisingly will be out of tonight’s game after playing 43 minutes last night.
Outside of losing Barrett for tonight, Toronto’s effort against OKC last night was a breath of fresh air. Especially after getting blown out by the Houston Rockets on Friday, the Raptors showed this team can hold their own when they put their minds to it.
It was an all-around effort to force the NBA’s second best team to double-overtime, with six Raptors scoring 16 or more points. Immanuel Quickley and Scottie Barnes combined for 20 assists as they led the offence by spreading out the points.
The one negative standout was Bruce Brown, who likely draws into the starting lineup tonight in place of Barrett, despite mustering only two points off zero field goals against the Thunder. As a player who may be a hot commodity around the league and has already spoken about his potential fit on another Eastern Conference team, Brown will need a rebound game tonight if he wants to make his way to a contending team.
As the first of only two games left in their six game road trip, it’s yet to be seen how travel will affect the Raptors. Having been on the road for over a week already and travelling from Oklahoma to Louisiana overnight, fatigue may begin to catch up to the squad. To see how they fare tonight, here’s how to watch.
How to Watch:
Sportsnet at 8:00 pm ET
Toronto: Immanuel Quickley, Gary Trent Jr., Bruce Brown, Scottie Barnes, Jakob Poeltl
New Orleans: CJ McCollum, Herb Jones, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Jonas Valanciunas
Toronto: RJ Barrett (out - knee), Jontay Porter (out - back)
New Orleans: Herb Jones (questionable - groin), Larry Nance Jr. (questionable - ankle), Zion Williamson (questionable - foot)