The New Orleans Pelicans have swept the season series with the Toronto Raptors as they earned a 120-116 win Saturday night.
It's New Orleans' second win in as many weeks over Toronto as the two teams met on opening night just 10 days prior. The Pelicans were led by 31 points from Brandon Ingram while former No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson finished with 21 points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes of action.
The Raptors, who fall to 1-4 on the season, were led by 27 points from Fred VanVleet, who scored 21 in the first half alone. Chris Boucher added 24 points off the bench and Kyle Lowry finished the night with 16 points and a team-high eight assists.
Toronto trailed by as many as 12 in the final frame but a late rally fell short as an Eric Bledsoe 3-pointer put New Orleans up for good with 41 seconds remaining in regulation.
For more on how this one unfolded, here are some thoughts from the game…
Ingram delivers again
In the season opener, it was a near triple-double from Brandon Ingram that led the way for the Pelicans.
Saturday, Ingram again filled it up, finishing with a game-high 31 points (on 8-for-17 shooting) to go with six rebounds and four assists. Ingram is without a doubt New Orleans' closer as he calmly sank four free throws in the game's final seconds to put things away for good.
Last year's Most Improved Player appears to be taking another step towards superstardom.
Another rough outing for Pascal
After missing Thursday's win over the New York Knicks for disciplinary reasons, Pascal Siakam returned to action Saturday but had a rough outing.
The All-Star forward finished with just 10 points (on 4-for-10 shooting) and four rebounds before fouling out in just 25 minutes of action. It's the second time Siakam has fouled out in as many games, which is a troubling trend that should be a focal point moving forward.
Big shot Bledsoe
Eric Bledsoe hasn't really shot the ball well this season … except against the Toronto Raptors.
After shooting 4-for-8 in the season opener, Bledsoe shot 4-for-18 (22.2%) in the four games since. In this one, he seemingly snapped out of the slump as he went 4-for-6 from deep, including the triple that would put the Pelicans ahead for good.
BLED!!!!!- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 3, 2021
Pelicans take the lead with 41 secs left #WBD pic.twitter.com/l1YDx7bGDH
So, to recap: This season, Bledsoe is 8-for-14 from deep against Toronto and 4-for-18 against everyone else.
Kyle Lowry will do whatever it takes
While Kyle Lowry finished the game with 16 points and a team-high eight assists his biggest - and probably bravest - moment came when he drew a charge on 6-foot-6, 285-pound Zion Williamson.
KYLE LOWRY IS FEARLESS pic.twitter.com/pdKeIa7yXn- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 3, 2021
By no means is Lowry a small guy but taking a charge on Williamson is a different level of sacrifice, especially considering the fact that the play occurred down the stretch of the game.
Lowry, yet again proving he's willing to do whatever it takes.
Statement uniforms debut
We've seen the white "Association" uniform and the red "Icon" uniform but tonight, we got our first look at the Raptors' black "Statement" uniforms in action.
Statement Piece. #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/vObHrU3kjE- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 2, 2021
A sharp new look for the Raps. Now, all that remains to be seen on the court are the team's "City" and "Earned" edition uniforms.
Getting to the line
It's been highly-publicized at this point but Toronto is the league's worst team at getting to the line, coming into this one averaging just 15.5 attempts per game.
Against the Pelicans, however, the Raptors managed to get to the line 27 times, connecting on all but one. Pretty good, right? That is, until you realize that New Orleans got to the line 20 more times, finishing the game shooting 36-for-47 from the charity stripe.
Toronto got to the line and made it count but New Orleans got there much much more, which made the difference.
Boucher provides a spark
Chris Boucher stepped up in a major way for the Raptors in this one.
Boucher did plenty to keep Toronto in the game, finishing with 24 points, five rebounds, two steals and a block in 28 minutes off of the bench. He was also a team-best plus-11 in the box score. While the team continues to sort through other issues, Boucher has carved himself a role as a consistent contributor.
A career first-half for VanVleet
When these two teams met just 10 days ago, Fred VanVleet scored just nine points (on 3-for-12 shooting).
Saturday night went a little differently.
In the first half alone, VanVleet scored 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting, which is the most he's scored in a single half of his five-year career. It was a quieter second half for VanVleet, who would finish the night with a team-high 27 points but shot 9-for-23 from the field, including 4-for-13 from beyond the arc.
The Raptors return to Tampa where they'll host the Boston Celtics on Monday while the Pelicans continue a four-game homestand as they play host to the Indiana Pacers on Monday.
More analysis to come.
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