Game Preview: Raptors vs Pelicans

Holly MacKenzie -

Toronto Raptors (46-19) @ New Orleans Pelicans (30-37)

When: Friday, March 8th, 8 P.M. ET

Where: Smoothie King Center

Leading into tonight’s game:

- Injury report: For the Raptors, Fred VanVleet (left thumb ligament) is out. For the Pelicans, Dairis Bertans (personal reasons), Trevon Bluiett (right thumb surgery), Jrue Holiday (lower abdominal strain), E’Twaun Moore (left quadriceps contusion) are out. Jahlil Okafor (right ankle sprain) is listed as questionable.

- On the road again: Friday’s game is the first in a three-game road trip that will see the Raptors go from New Orleans to Miami where they will have a back-to-back against the Heat on Sunday and Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. This is Toronto’s final three-game road trip of the season. After Friday’s game against the Pelicans, the Raptors will only have two more remaining road games against Western Conference opponents. They will also only have two games remaining against teams that currently have a winning record, both coming against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a home-and-away later this month.

- Recent history: This is the final regular-season meeting between the Raptors and Pelicans. New Orleans took the first meeting in Toronto, 126-110 behind a 25-point, 20-rebound effort from Anthony Davis and 30 points from E'Twaun Moore. Jrue Holiday was also fantastic for the Pelicans in the win, finishing with 29 points and 14 assists as New Orleans led throughout the entire second half. Pascal Siakam led the Raptors in the loss with 22 points while Kawhi Leonard added 20 points and Serge Ibaka had a 19-point, 14-rebound double-double. The Pelicans enter Friday’s game after a 114-104 loss to the Utah Jazz that snapped a three-game winning streak.

Extra Assists

- Bump in the road: With Tuesday’s 107-95 loss to the Houston Rockets, the Raptors have lost consecutive games for just the fifth time this season. Prior to Tuesday’s loss the team dropped a 112-107 overtime decision to the Detroit Pistons on the road. Toronto’s bench unit struggled in both games, and Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is confident they will bounce back, but he thinks the improvements will begin on the defensive end of the floor first. “Those guys can play better," Nurse said. "I’m talking about starting at the defensive end. If they want their offence to be a little easier then they need to get a few stops. It isn’t like Norman Powell, OG [ Anunoby], Pat McCaw, those guys are long and fast and strong and can be disruptive on defence, and that’s where it starts.”

- Double-double: Pascal Siakam had his 15th double-double of the season in Tuesday’s loss, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds in 38 minutes. This was also the 19th time that Siakam has topped the 20-point threshold this year, something he did just once in his first two NBA seasons combined. For the season, Siakam is averaging 16.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 32 minutes a game. As the season has gone on, Siakam’s game has only gotten stronger. Over nine games in February, Siakam averaged 21.3 points per game while shooting 51 percent from the floor and 49 percent from beyond the three-point line.

- Leading the way: Kawhi Leonard led the Raptors in scoring once again on Tuesday, finishing with 26 points against Houston. He shot 10-for-22 from the floor and 5-for-5 from the free throw line in 36 minutes. He also added six rebounds, an assist and a steal. Leonard is seventh in the league in scoring, averaging 27.0 points to go along with 7.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.9 steals per game.

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