Game Preview: Raptors vs Pelicans
Toronto Raptors (3-1) @ New Orleans Pelicans (0-4)
When: Thursday, October 11, 8 P.M. ET
Where: Smoothie King Center
Leading into tonight:
Preseason finale: Thursday’s game against the Pelicans will be Toronto’s fifth and final preseason game. After the game, the team will return to Toronto to continue practicing in preparation of the regular season home opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wed., Oct. 17 a Scotiabank Arena. “We’re itching a little bit,” Fred VanVleet said of the excitement for the regular season. “Everybody is getting a little antsy. You probably saw that [on Thursday], a little bit, guys are more emotional, a little more into it. It’s that anxiousness and anticipation leading up to the first [regular-season] game.”
Third-quarter crush: The Raptors rolled to a 118-91 victory against the Brooklyn Nets in Montreal thanks to a dominant third quarter. After trailing by three at the half, Toronto reeled off a 29-9 run to start the third quarter and break open the game. The Raptors went into the fourth ahead 91-70 after outscoring the Nets 35-11 in the third. “We really tightened up in the third quarter defensively,” Fred VanVleet said. “Got some steals, got out in transition, kept scoring the ball. I think we were a little loose in the first half, but in the second half we tightened the clamps a little bit.”
Rotation flexibility: Though head coach Nick Nurse has used the preseason to experiment with various lineups, he increased the minutes played for some key players during the team’s victory in Montreal against the Nets. The Raptors started Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka in Montreal. “This is what we’re doing,” Nurse said of lineup experiments. “It’s preseason. We’re not panicking, we’re not trying to play perfectly right now, this time of year. We’re just practicing, testing, moving things around.”
Settling in: Danny Green had his best outing in a Raptors uniform against the Nets. He scored 22 points, finishing 7-for-9 from the floor, and shot a ridiculous 6-of-7 from beyond the three-point line. He also swiped five steals and added four rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes. Kawhi Leonard had a well-rounded performance on Thursday. He shot 3-for-12 from the floor to score 11 points while adding seven rebounds, seven assists, four steals and a blocked shot in 31 minutes of action. The Raptors were a + 21 when Leonard was on the floor.
Guard watch: It was a quiet night for Kyle Lowry who was ejected in the third quarter, picking up a pair of technicals after being frustrated by an offensive foul call. Delon Wright left the game after the third. He did not return and the team announced that he had a strained muscle in his left thigh. After the game, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said that Wright will not travel with the team to New Orleans. The Raptors were also without Norman Powell on Wednesday as he missed the game with left IT band tenderness.
Chemistry building: Since Nick Nurse took over as head coach of the Raptors, he has spoken about the importance of chemistry. With some new faces on the roster this year, this preseason has been big for the team to develop the familiarity that will aid its chemistry. Though Toronto has only had four preseason games thus far, Nurse is already pleased with how things are looking for his roster, and he is eager to see how things develop as guys get more in-game action alongside one another.
“It’s a tremendous group of guys that’s worked very hard and listened very well,” Nurse said. “You can just see — offensive chemistry is probably easier to see, but you can just see defensive chemistry building. If you’ve seen us from game one to where we are now, you can see [we’re] a little bit more locked in, focused, a little bit better communication, not as many mistakes, a little bit more finishing the possessions off.”