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Toronto Raptors

Bell Game of the Week: Toronto Raptors open 2020-21 NBA season against New Orleans Pelicans

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Bell Game of the Week (NBA Canada)

Who's Playing

Matchup: Toronto Raptors vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Records: Raptors (0-0), Pelicans (0-0)

Where to Watch

Date: Wednesday, Dec. 23

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: TSN (Canada), Fox Sports New Orleans or League Pass (USA)

Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL

MORE: Watch live games on your favourite device with NBA League Pass

Game Preview

For the second year in a row, the Toronto Raptors open their season against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Last year's Opening Night matchup between the Raptors and Pelicans turned out to be a thriller. Led by Pascal Siakam (34 points, 18 rebounds) and Fred VanVleet (34 points), Toronto outlasted New Orleans in front of a sellout crowd at Scotiabank Arena, winning by a final score of 130-122 in overtime.

This year's matchup will look quite different, as both teams underwent some changes this offseason.

For the Raptors, they saw two key contributors walk in free agency in Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. They replaced them with Aron Baynes, who is coming off of a career year with the Phoenix Suns, and Alex Len, who split last season with the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings.

The two of them will be put to the test immediately against a Pelicans' frontline that features Zion Williamson and Steven Adams.

MORE: What Baynes brings to the Raptors | Examining Len's fit

After undergoing knee surgery before the start of the season, Williamson missed both matchups against the Raptors last season. He finished his rookie season averaging 22.5 points and 6.3 assists per game on 58.3 percent shooting from the field. According to Stathead, he became the first rookie since Shaquille O'Neal (1992-93) to post those numbers.

Despite playing only 24 games, Williamson is widely considered to be one of the best players in the league entering his sophomore season, landing 19th on ESPN's best players list for the 2020-21 season, 24th in CBS Sports' and 30th on NBA.com's.

The Pelicans acquired Adams in the multi-team trade that saw the Milwaukee Bucks acquire Jrue Holiday in the offseason. The No. 12 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Adams spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder, posting averages of 9.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.

In NBA.com's annual GM Survey, the Pelicans acquiring Adams was voted as the second-most underrated player acquisition of the offseason. Adams was also voted as the toughest player in the NBA, beating out Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker and Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler for the honour.

There will be plenty of intrigue outside of the frontcourt matchup when the Raptors open their season against the Pelicans. OG Anunoby's defence will be put to the test against Brandon Ingram, while Pascal Siakam will be looking to carry over his hot shooting against the Pelicans last season into this season.

Additionally, it will be a battle of the guards, with Eric Bledsoe and Lonzo Ball tasked with slowing down Toronto's Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet.

Injury Report

An injury report has not yet been submitted by either the Raptors or Pelicans.

Check back closer to tipoff.

Game Notes

  • The Raptors finished the 2019-20 season ranked second in the league in defensive efficiency (104.7) and 13th in offensive efficiency (110.8).
  • The Pelicans, meanwhile, ranked 21st on defence (111.8) and 15th on offence (110.5)
  • Stan Van Gundy has replaced Alvin Gentry as head coach of the Pelicans. Van Gundy has the sixth-best winning percentage among active head coaches.
  • The Pelicans made a big commitment to Brandon Ingram in the offseason, signing him to a five-year, $158 million extension. Ingram is coming off of a breakout season in which he averaged 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, earning him Most Improved Player and the first All-Star selection of his career.
  • Since 2017-18, the only player who's grabbed more offensive rebounds than Steven Adams (982) is Cleveland Cavaliers centre Andre Drummond (1,072).
  • After scoring 34 points against the Pelicans on Opening Night, Pascal Siakam tied his career-high with 44 points in Toronto's other matchup with New Orleans last season.
  • The No. 29 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Malachi Flynn impressed for the Raptors in the preseason, averaging 10.3 points, 4.0 assists and 1.3 rebounds per game on 47.8 percent shooting from the field.
  • Aron Baynes drew a total of 16 charges last season, the eighth-most in the NBA. Kyle Lowry finished first with 34 charges drawn.
  • The Raptors have four players in ESPN's best players for the 2020-21 season: OG Anunoby (68), Fred VanVleet (40), Kyle Lowry (30) and Siakam (24).
  • The Pelicans had five players crack ESPN's top 100 for the upcoming season: Adams (70), Eric Bledsoe (67), Lonzo Ball (54), Ingram (28) and Zion Williamson (19).

Last Time They Played

Date: Nov. 8, 2019

Score: Raptors 122, Pelicans 104

Raptors: Pascal Siakam - 44 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists

Pelicans: Brandon Ingram - 27 points, 7 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal

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