A team we haven’t seen all season, the New Orleans Pelicans, are at the Air Canada Centre tonight. The Toronto Raptors have had several days to rest and recuperate from their 5-game trip out West, and should be fully healthy. That’s in sharp contrast to the banged-up Pels(? – anybody got any ideas?) who are missing several of their best, and will be putting a patchwork lineup on the floor as a result.
One player they don’t need to apologize for is Anthony (Unibrow) Davis, already a star at 20 years young. The number one pick in the 2012 draft leads the team with over 20 points and 10 rebounds Per Game [PG], and the entire league in blocked shots PG with 3.19. He’s a natural centre, but the loss of sweet-shooting “stretch-4″ Ryan Anderson has meant patching and bailing, which leads us to starting centre Alexis Ajinca. This extraordinarily long Frenchman had a cup of coffee with the Raps a few years back, but was content to shoot 3-balls, badly. He’s trying again to build an NBA career, presumably closer to the basket. Al-Farouq Aminu has bounced around the league, but appears to have settled in as a defense-first small forward. A stress fracture to Jrue Holiday’s right leg means Brian Roberts starts at point guard. He’s pesky, but Kyle Lowry should win that battle. Eric Gordon is the real deal at shooting guard; watch for Terrence Ross to draw the defensive assignment.
While the first game at home following a road trip is considered a “trap”, there’s no excuse here. The Raps can win this game, and will if they:
- pressure the ball. The quick hands of Lowry and Ross should be able to gobble up a bunch of turnovers from this shaky backcourt.
- pin Davis on offense. He’s the only meaningful paint presence they have, but isn’t as strong as Jonas Valanciunas. If JV can immobilize him as DeMar DeRozan and others drive the lane, there are a lot of easy buckets to be had.
- destroy their second unit. The Pels are desperate enough to have signed Luke Babbit, who couldn’t hold a job on Portland’s poor bench last year. Their best secondary scorer, Tyreke Evans, is sidelined with injury. Greivis Vasquez (an ex-Pelican, which means he was exPelled from the squad, I guess) and his cohorts should be able to rip these guys up.
Anthony Davis will likely put on a show, but it won’t be enough. Toronto wins this one 104-89.