Three takeaways from the Toronto Raptors shootout win vs the New Orleans Pelicans

Three takeaways from the Toronto Raptors shootout win vs the New Orleans Pelicans
Kawhi Leonards embarrassing preseason moment turns into epic assist
NEW ORLEANS — Pascal Siakam had 21 points and 11 rebounds and OG Anunoby added 15 points as a shorthanded Toronto Raptors squad wrapped up pre-season play with a 134-119 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday.

CJ Miles had 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting — including 3 of 4 from the three-point line — off the bench for Toronto (4-1). Malachi Richardson had 21 points, Kay Felder had 15 and both Jordan Loyd and Eric Moreland had 12 apiece.

Anthony Davis paced the Pelicans (0-5) with 36 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. Julius Randle also had a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds. Nikola Mirotic, Jrue Holiday and ETwaun Moore were in double-digits at 15, 14 and 12 points, respectively.

In the second half, Nurse changed the starting group, opting to go back to Valanciunas, and swap Anunoby for Pascal Siakam, and the players responded immediately with the Raptors reeling off a 27-6 run to take control of the game, keyed by dominant defense and scoring some easy transition buckets. Lowry ended up getting himself ejected during the second half, an ejection you could see coming with his chirping at the referees throughout the game, but the Raptors didn’t skip a beat as Anunoby showed the progress he’s made during the summer defensively, and he and Leonard found some chemistry defensively where they frustrated the Nets while also delivering a highlight reel play together late in the game.

The Raptors took a 67-64 lead into halftime as Siakam banked in a hook shot with 2.4 seconds. Toronto never looked back, streching its advantage to as much as 15 in the fourth quarter.

For Leonard, his shot never quite came in this one, and it’s been the one thing that hasn’t fully returned from his MVP form of years past, but there were other very positive signs. Not just the defensive effort and he showed his ability to control rebounds as the game progressed, but his playmaking was in full form, finding lanes into the paint and kicking out to shooters for easy looks with regularity. He’s visibly enjoying himself out there with this Raptors team, and the shot should just be rust at this point, and should come as he gets further back into the swing of the NBA season.

New Orleans cut the lead to two at 111-109 with 7:39 left, but Toronto finished the game on a 23-10 run.

This was the team that was envisioned at the time of the trade this summer in this second half, an athletic team that could switch on defense and challenge offenses around the court while creating a lot of space offensively through their speed, talent, and shooting across the court. Nick Nurse’s vision appears to be translating in the preseason, because he got the players in rhythm in this game, and with just a week remaining until the regular season, it’ll be interesting to see if he can deliver this team on a nightly basis.

Torontos Chris Boucher was helped to the locker-room with just more than eight minutes left in the fourth quarter after a collision with Davis as both players jumped for a rebound. Boucher fell and his head appeared to hit the court. He stayed down a couple minutes while he received treatment.

Toronto rested stars Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry as well as regulars Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas, Danny Green and Fred Van Vleet.

The Raptors went to Montreal for the last home game of the preseason on Wednesday night, and the fans showed up to bring a true home court advantage as they took on the Brooklyn Nets. With OG Anunoby rejoining the team this week and being available for the first time this preseason, this was the first look at a fully healthy Raptors team, and the rust showed through, but so did the talent and potential of this team.

The Pelicans, meanwhile, utilized their full squadron, including starters Davis, Holiday, Moore, Mirotic and Elfrid Payton, as well as Randle in reserve.

To cap the night off, Chris Boucher, who grew up in Montreal, was able to deliver another nice moment for the crowd as he hit a pair of threes in the waning moments. Boucher has had a nice training camp and preseason, and should be a leading contender for the Raptors’ last two-way spot.

Norman Powell, who is dealing with left IT band tenderness, and Delon Wright, who is nursing a strained left thigh muscle, both sat out for Toronto.

Share Share Raptors down the Pelicans 134-119, minus the broadcast experience tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports The story well be buzzing about until opening night next Thursday is going to be the depth of this Raptors team. Yeah, weve been talking about it for years now, but tonight against the Pelicans it was on display in a slightly different, but equally dominant way. The offensive efficiency was blistering throughout the game (21 fast-break points), with the Raptors managing to score at least 30 points in each quarter.

At the Bell Centre on Wednesday night, Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors had his fail turn into pure genius.

After a steal, Leonard was driving up the court with nothing between he and the rim. When he went up for the slam though, well, things didnt work out as planned.

Even with a lineup featuring the likes of Jordan Loyd, Kay Felder, Greg Monroe, Eric Moreland and Lorenzo Brown — the Raptors (905) were able to score at will. Whether you attribute this offensive display to the coaching staff, or to the horrid New Orleans defense (and to be fair, the Raptors played very little defense themselves), one thing is clear — the message that first year head coach Nick Nurse is attempting to drill into the heads of his players is getting through.

Kawhi misses a wide open dunk but Danny Green cleans it up with a deep three pic.twitter.com/SvMhYkDuna

I want to dedicate at least a paragraph to roster-hopeful Eric Moreland. Moreland is a special talent — hes clearly an incredibly athletic big, but there has to be a reason hes never gotten consistent minutes in the NBA. So far, we havent seen enough to know why he hasnt played much in the past, but I do think weve seen enough to justify handing him a roster spot. He played a great game and made more than a few positive plays tonight.

I dont remember Leonard and Danny Green ever pulling this off when they played with the San Antonio Spurs, but it is great to see this type of chemistry between the two in just the preseason.

New Orleans looked ragged, to be perfectly honest. This isnt the same team — especially on defense — that we saw win game after spirited game en route to nearly 50 wins. Anthony Davis ended up playing 31 minutes in the teams final preseason game, including minutes played in the fourth quarter. It was an embarrassing sign for the Pelicans — it could be a long season.

That play honestly looked like something I would do while playing NBA 2K. Only, the other team gets the ball after I fail on the dunk and scores at the other end. I need to brush up on my skills.

Siakam was truly unbelievable. He looked every bit the part of the leader he was during the Raptors 905 championship run a year and a half ago, quarterbacking an astonishing offensive pace in his 28 minutes of floor time. He continually pushed the tempo either with his passing (6 assists), or by flying coast to coast after pulling down one of his 11 rebounds.

But nonetheless, it seems that even when Kawhi does wrong, he doesnt. And the people appreciated his creative way to set up Green.

Miles meanwhile continued to look like a renewed man with a better sense of his play-style than the player we saw last season. Looking younger and in better shape, Miles is ready to play a huge role off the bench for the Raptors this season. His night ended at halftime, finishing with 14 points on 5-of-7 from the field in 11 minutes of action.

Kawhi steal (awesome), to Kawhi missed dunk (not so awesome), to a made Danny Green three ball (seriously, this team is awesome) #WeTheNorth

Usually, trick plays are reserved for the National Football League, but I wouldnt mind seeing the Raptors mix in a couple on offense this season.