Toronto Raptors: Things to watch for against New Orleans Pelicans

Toronto Raptors doubling Zion (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors doubling Zion (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors are getting ready to face Zion and the Pelicans for the second and final time this season.

The Toronto Raptors started their season off with a loss against the New Orleans Pelicans on December 23. A new year and 11 days later, the Raptors are facing the Pelicans again tonight. The Raptors are looking to build their first win streak of the season after their victory against the Knicks on Thursday.

Better three-point shooting

For the Toronto Raptors to win any game, it feels as though they have to shoot the three at a better rate than the other team. They currently lead the league in three-point attempts taken with 46 per game, but it isn’t nearly as impressive when you see the rate they shoot it at –shooting 34.2 percent from three which ranks them 20th in the league.

A large reason they won so handily against the Knicks was because of the Knicks’ inability to make threes. The Raptors may have shot a poor 32.7 percent (17/52) from three that game, but that doesn’t matter when the opposing teams have only three made threes to their name — the Knicks shot 3-36 from three.

Such an integral part of the Raptors’ gameplan revolves around their high-volume three-point shooting. The Raptors lost their first game against the Pelicans because they shot the three at a 30 percent rate while the Pelicans shot it at a 45 percent rate. Against the Spurs, the Raptors shot 36.6 percent while the Spurs shot 41.2 percent from three.

If the Raptors want to facilitate their chance of winning, they need to find their rhythm from three and shoot it at a better rate than their opponent.

Someone other than Lowry has to go to the free-throw line

I feel like a broken record talking about this, but the Raptors have to find a way to get to the free-throw line. That has to all start with their stars: Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. I don’t mention Lowry because he is the only player who has been going to the line consistently — Lowry is going to the free-throw line 4.3 times per game.

VanVleet and Siakam go to the line 4 times per game combined. Embarrassing for two players who have the ball in the hand more often than not with their usage rate both being over 23 percent. OG Anunoby, a player being used so much off-ball is doing better than both VanVleet and Siakam with his 2.5 free throws per game.

If the Raptors want to give themselves the best chance possible at winning, then starting to draw fouls and go to the free-throw line will help them that much more.

Let them beat you from outside, shut down Zion, and hope Ingram misses shots

The Pelicans are the second-worst three-point shooting team in the league and would be ranked last if it wasn’t for their fantastic three-point shooting in the first game.  That’s why the Raptors let them shoot so many threes the first game. And it would’ve worked if it wasn’t for such a terrible 3rd quarter — the Pelicans outscored the Raptors 38 to 22 and shooting 7/8 from three.

Zion Williamson had a pretty quiet game for his standards. The Raptors doubled him whenever possible and OG Anunoby did a fantastic job as the primary defender.  Zion had 15 points and 6 turnovers and was very limited in what he could that game.

However, a player who wasn’t limited was Brandon Ingram; the player who led the way in the first game with 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 11 assists. Ingram is tough to guard because of his length and playmaking ability. His game resembles Kevin Durant’s where he can just shoot over players when contested as he did here.

You can’t really double Ingram because he’s become a good enough passer, and it’s hard to punish him anywhere else because he has the versatility to score from anywhere. Siakam has to do a better job guarding him one on one and the Raptors have to hope he has a quiet day.

Next. Five things wrong with the Toronto Raptors after winless start to season. dark

They face off at 7:30 PM tonight at Smoothie King Center.