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Toronto Raptors

Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet carry Toronto Raptors to victory in thrilling season opener

The Raptors begin 2019-20 just as they ended 2018-19:

Alone atop the NBA.

After a historic ring ceremony and unveiling of the championship banner, the Raptors overcame some early jitters and dug out of a hole to beat the New Orleans Pelicans in overtime to start the season with a win.

Here are the biggest takeaways from Toronto's 1-0 start.

Finals VanVleet saves the day

Fred VanVleet picked up right where he left off.

After a breakout performance in which he even garnered a Finals MVP vote, VanVleet turned it up a notch in the season opener with the best game of his career. Inserted into the starting lineup alongside Kyle Lowry, the fourth-year guard poured in a career-high 34 points on an efficient 12-18 shooting.

In addition to 34 points, he also dished out a team-high seven assists and looked in control from start to finish. The Raptors simply looked like another team whenever VanVleet was on the floor. They outscored the Pelicans by 18 points in the 44 minutes he was on the floor and were outscored by 10 in the nine minutes he was out of the game.

Siakam delivers All-Star performance

VanVleet wasn't alone in filling up the box score.

Although he may have fouled out, Pascal Siakam put together an awfully impressive performance in his debut as a max contract player. Fresh off inking a new max extension in the runup to the start of the regular season, Siakam finished with 34 points, 18 rebounds and five assists to provide a glimpse for what's in store the rest of the regular season.

Following the departure of Kawhi Leonard in free agency, there's been months of speculation about whether or not Siakam would be up to the task of delivering as Toronto's franchise player. It's only Game 1 of 82, but Tuesday's showing should give Raptors fans plenty of optimism moving forward.

MORE: Is Siakam ready to become a franchise player?

Siakam did a little bit of everything.

Over the first three quarters, it was more of the same from what we saw last year: points off cuts, buckets in transition, a few corner 3s, hunting mismatches on switches, everything within the flow of the offence.

The longer the game went on, the more comfortable Siakam looked in asserting himself as he poured in 14 points in the fourth quarter before the ill-timed charge for his sixth and final foul with just under a minute left.

Siakam finished two rebounds shy of becoming the first player since Charles Barkley in 1992 with at least 30 points and 20 rebounds in a season opener.

Raps roll with short rotation

The Raptors won despite the bench being outscored 57-23.

While some of that is due to VanVleet's insertion into the starting lineup, the Raptors ended up only playing eight players. It was a stark contrast to the Pelicans who midway through the second quarter had already used 12 different players, each of whom attempted a shot before halftime.

The biggest surprise off the bench for Toronto was Terence Davis, one of just three bench players to see action alongside regulars Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell.

MORE: Fast facts on Terence Davis

The undrafted rookie out of Ole Miss played 15 minutes and provided a spark on both ends, knocking down a pair of shots while adding two assists and two steals. Davis was a part of Toronto's best five-man lineup as he combined with Siakam, VanVleet, Lowry and Ibaka to outscore the Pelicans 23-14 in 6:29.

Moving forward, the Raptors will surely look for more off the bench from the likes of Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Matt Thomas, none of whom played against the Pelicans.

What's next for the Raptors

Toronto is back in action on Friday at Boston followed by its first back-to-back of the season on the road at Chicago.

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