Toronto Raptors Game Preview: Raptors @ Pelicans


Toronto Raptors Game Preview: Raptors @ Pelicans

Coming out of the All-Star break, we have seen two vastly different versions of the Toronto Raptors.

On Friday, we witnessed the Raptors manhandle the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks. However, facing the Houston Rockets on Saturday, Toronto was never able to get on track, amassing a season-high 23 turnovers along the way.

Spark plug Lou Williams was out of commission against the Rockets due to an ankle sprain. ‘Sweet Lou’s’ absence was really felt as perhaps the Sixth Man of the Year candidate would have been able to lift his team out of their slump.

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Tonight, the Raptors head to New Orleans for a date with the Pelicans. In the last matchup between these teams on Jan. 18, Toronto suffered perhaps its most disappointing loss of the season against a severely undermanned squad.

It turns out the Pelicans will be banged up yet again, as both Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson will sit out due to injuries. They join dynamic guard Jrue Holiday on the sidelines.

Key to Victory #1: Play at a controlled pace

On Saturday night, the Raptors were putting on a perfect display of how to NOT play basketball. Throwing long passes and failing to make simple catches, Toronto was the sloppiest it had been all season. When you commit 23 turnovers, you are not going to beat anyone, especially on the road. Dwane Casey will need his group to rein themselves in tonight in Louisiana.

Oct 29, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) and guard Kyle Lowry (right) celebrate a win over the Atlanta Hawks at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Atlanta 109-102. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Key to Victory #2: Backcourt bounce back

The dynamic duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan struggled mightily in the Lone Star State, combining for 21 points while connecting on six of their 27 shots. The two also accounted for over half of their team’s turnovers. The Raptors will need their two leaders to return to form at Smoothie King Center if they are going to have a chance in this one. Even though the Pelicans are short-handed, they still have a formidable backcourt of Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans, which could pose problems for Toronto.

Key to Victory #3: Get the ball moving

Entering tonight’s game, the Raptors rank 20th in the league averaging 21 assists per contest. Against the Hawks, point guards Lowry and Greivis Vasquez had the ball zipping around the court as Toronto dished out 27 dimes. On the contrary, the Raptors only mustered 12 helpers in Saturday’s ball game, leading to an abysmal 32 percent shooting from the field.

Feb 10, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans (1) goes to the basket as Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) tries to defend at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Pelicans 108-101. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Marquee Matchup: Tyreke Evans vs. whoever guards him

With Holiday unable to go, Evans has been running the Pelicans’ offence from the point guard position. When these teams squared off in the middle of January, the 25-year-old American was the one to break the Raptors’ hearts, hitting the game-winning shot in the waning seconds. Even though he will be playing at the one spot, there is no guarantee that it will be Lowry trying to check him. Listed at six-foot-six, Evans poses a unique challenge because of his size. Whoever draws the defensive assignment will be hard-pressed to limit his productivity.

Prediction: Through 55 games, New Orleans finds itself just outside of the Western Conference playoff picture. Without their two best players available for the next stretch, it will be nearly impossible for the team to qualify for the postseason. After falling to New Orleans in January, it is hard to imagine the Raptors dropping another game to the Davis-and-Holiday-less Pelicans. If Friday’s version of the Raptors shows up, look for Toronto to have this one in the bag by the midway mark of the fourth quarter, especially if Williams is back in the lineup.

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