After having arguably the best offseason in franchise history, the 2019-20 season for the New Orleans Pelicans (1-6) has gotten off to a less than ideal start. Things started poorly when a knee injury to 2019 NBA Draft first overall pick Zion Williamson meant that Williamson would miss the first month or two of the season. Then the Pelicans lost their first four games of the season before finally getting a good win over Denver. After two more losses at Oklahoma City and Brooklyn, the preseason Pelicans hype train was almost completely derailed. Even more concerning has been the Pelicans’ defense or lack of. The Pelicans have given up at least 107 points in every game this season with highs of 135 and 134 against Golden State and Brooklyn, respectively. It is safe to say that defense was an area that the Pelicans were looking to improve upon as they entered their eighth contest of the season on Friday night versus Toronto.
Both teams got off to a fast start and at the end of the first quarter, the score was all knotted up at 30 apiece. The second quarter is where things started to go wrong for the Pelicans. The Raptors went on a 15-0 scoring run to start the quarter and the Pelicans quickly found themselves down 45-30. The Pelicans finally found the bottom of the basket with 8:07 remaining in the quarter, but the Raptors kept piling on and took a 75-53 lead into the half.
After some nice halftime adjustments and an influx of energy off of the bench from rookie Nickel Alexander-Walker, the Pelicans made a bit of a fourth-quarter run and actually outscored the Raptors in the second half. Unfortunately, it was far too little too late as the Pelicans really never threatened Toronto and fell by a score of 122-104.
Pascal Siakam led the way for the Raptors as the reigning NBA Most Improved Player scored an impressive 44 points. OG Anunoby added 21 and Normal Powell had 18 to contribute to the Toronto win. Brandon Ingram dropped 27 points for the Pelicans in the losing effort with Frank Jackson and Nickel Alexander-Walker both having nice 13 point games off the bench.
When asked about his team’s second-quarter struggles, Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry said, “That’s been our Achilles heel where somewhere along the line we give up a 40-point quarter. Those are hard to survive in this league. That’s where they got the separation and then you know we’re playing uphill the rest of the game. It doesn’t matter what kind of run you go on at that point.”
- The Pelicans (1-7) will head to Charlotte to take on the Hornets (4-4) on Saturday night at 7:00 PM ET.
- The Raptors (6-2) will travel to Los Angeles to face the Lakers (7-1) on Sunday at 9:30 PM ET.