The Toronto Raptors dropped their first game of 2021, and second matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans, 116-120, despite rallying in the 4th. In what has been a familiar scene down the stretch, the Raptors failed to close out the game. Before the season, they had won eight of their last 10 meetings against the Pelicans.
Brandon Ingram led the way with 31 points in 35 minutes with 11 of his points coming off the free throw line. In the 4th quarter the Pelicans shot 28 of their 47 free throws, compared to the 27 by the Raptors all game. Eric Bledsoe continued his hot shooting from their first meeting, going 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. He finished the night with 19 points and 10 assists enroute to the teams 4th win of the season.
Zion Williamson added 21 points. He has averaged 19.6 points in the first 6 games of his sophomore season.
Similar to their previous losses, Toronto has shown glimpses of what they can be. The biggest bright spot has been the emergence of Chris Boucher. In Saturday’s loss, he put up 24 points, 2 steals and 1 block off the bench. He has quietly and efficiently put up offensive and defensive numbers for the Raptors. Nick Nurse has given him more minutes and the numbers don’t lie. He is currently having career bests in points (13.4), FG% (54.3) and 3pt% (35.7). If he continues with this trend, we may see Boucher earn his first ever start with the team.
Fred VanVleet led Toronto with 27 points and 8 rebounds in 40 minutes. In his first game back from internal disciplinary action, Pascal Siakam returned to the starting line up. He struggled from the field, shooting 40% and going 0 for 4 from deep. It has been a frustrating start to the 2020-2021 season for Siakam who has fouled out of his second consecutive game. In 60 games last season, he fouled out twice. In 278 games before that, it was 6 times. The Raptors will need some offense and leadership from Siakam if they want to turn this uncharacteristic start around.
“I’m trying to be on the floor, I’m trying to play, and it just felt like every second I was out of the game… When it’s a foul you wanna really feel like you’re fouling somebody. Those little touches here and there, it’s tough when those are called”via Josh Lewenberg
Nurse, asked how Siakam’s been off the court: “By all accounts he’s having good spirited workouts, he’s preparing really well for the games, my staff tells me that he’s upbeat, when I speak to him he’s been very attentive, he’s been good in the team meetings.”via Josh Lewenberg
Toronto also continues to struggle from beyond the arc. They shot 29% from 3, on an abysmal 14 of 48 shooting.
Game note: Despite the loss, the Raptors had success in the restricted area. They were +10 on points in the paint and +8 on fast break opportunities.
Next up… Toronto travels home to face another Division contender in Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics. Tip off is 7:30pm Eastern at Amalie Arena.