The New Orleans Pelicans earned a 113-99 win over the Toronto Raptors to spoil the host's season opener in their temporary home of Tampa, FL.
Reigning Most Improved Player Brandon Ingram led the way for New Orleans with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists while Toronto was led by 2019 Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam, who finished with 20 points, six rebounds, and six assists.
The Raptors finished the night shooting 42.7% from the field and 30.4% from deep while the Pelicans shot a much hotter 52.5% from the field and 45.2% from deep.
For some instant reactions, here are some thoughts from New Orleans' opening night win.
1. The momentum swung in the second half
The Raptors got out to a solid start to the game, leading by as many as 11 points in the first half before taking a 57-50 lead into the halftime break.
With under nine minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Raptors got back out to an 11-point lead, as an OG Anunoby lead put the team up 67-56. Then the momentum shifted.
New Orleans closed the third frame on a 32-12 run to take an 88-79 lead into the final frame and they never really looked back. Toronto went cold after shooting 46.7% from the field and 45.4 from beyond the arc in the first half, as it scored just 42 points on 38.6% shooting from the field, including 3-for-22 from deep in the final 24 minutes.
The Pelicans took full advantage, outscoring the Raptors by 21 points to earn the 14-point win.
2. Sloppy play on both sides
With an abbreviated training camp and shortened preseason, some sloppiness is to be expected but too much sloppy play is inexcusable.
While the Pelicans committed 24 turnovers, the Raptors committed an uncharacteristic 20 turnovers, led by six from Kyle Lowry while Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby each committed four turnovers apiece. Even more costly? Those turnovers led to 25 points for the Pelicans.
Toronto will have to clean up on the sloppy play moving forward.
3. Brandon Ingram deserved every penny of the max
This offseason, Ingram secured his place as the future of the Pelicans franchise when he inked a five-year deal worth north of $158 million dollars, committing to New Orleans through the 2025-26 NBA season.
Tonight, Ingram showed exactly why he earned that deal.
HE'S HEATIN' UP ♨️ @B_Ingram13- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) December 24, 2020
Pels take the lead! #WontBowDown pic.twitter.com/vBGt8rAcar
Not only reigning Most Improved Player did what he does best in filling it up with 24 points on 10-for-19 (52.6%) shooting, but he also continued to show growth as a playmaker, finishing with a game-high 11 assists and nearly made it a triple-double with nine rebounds.
That's what a max player looks like.
4. Lowry ties DeRozan in the record books.
It's Year 15 for Kyle Lowry and the 34-year-old looks as good as ever.
Lowry made his ninth opening-night start as a Raptor, tying him with his buddy DeMar DeRozan for most in franchise history, per TSN's Josh Lewenberg. He got out to a great start in this one, too.
In the first half, Lowry looked like the best player on the floor, scoring a game-high 14 points, shooting 5-for-9 from the field and 4-for-6 from beyond the arc while dishing out six assists. He went on to finish with 18 points (on 7-for-15 shooting) and a team-high 10 assists.
More Lowry being Lowry.
5. 3-point shooting is the difference
So, about that tale of two halves thing.
In the first half, Toronto knocked down 11 of its 24 3-point attempts while New Orleans shot 8-for-22 (36.4%), respectable but not red-hot.
Red-hot probably isn't a good enough descriptor for the Pelicans' third quarter. With Ingram and Lonzo Ball hitting three triples apiece, New Orleans shot 7-for-8 (87.5%) from deep in the frame while Toronto missed all 10 of its 3-point attempts.
By the end of the game, the Pelicans shot 19-for-42 (45.2%) from 3, led by sharpshooter JJ Redick, who shot 6-for-11 from deep en route to 23 points off the bench. Ball and Eric Bledsoe each shot 4-for-8 from beyond the arc while Ingram shot 3-for-6.
As for the Raptors, they shot just 3-for-22 from beyond the arc. Far from ideal.
6. Zion finds his way
At first, it appeared that Toronto had found a way to make things difficult for the former No. 1 pick, who only attempted four field goals in the first half, though he did shoot 3-for-4.
Although the 20-year-old did commit a team-high six turnovers, he finished with an efficient 15 points (on 7-for-9 shooting) to go along with 10 rebounds in just 29 minutes of action. His one weakness in this one was a 1-for-4 showing from the charity stripe, which is a clear area for improvement.
If he can get that together, this New Orleans team can be very scary.
7. Pascal is starting to like himself again
If you know anything about Pascal Siakam, you know his best games have come against the Pelicans.
He entered the night averaging 19.3 points over seven games against New Orleans and the last time he faced them, he tied a career-high with 44 points. After struggling throughout the NBA Restart and having some ups and downs during the preseason, P Skills looked much more like himself.
Oh man, oh man- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 24, 2020
🌶️: 12 Pts | 4 Ast | 3 Reb | 3 3pm pic.twitter.com/XQUKhD6FOa
He finished the night with a team-high 20 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists but it ultimately wasn't enough.
8. The Raptors find themselves in unfamiliar territory
Don't panic! But with the Raptors' streak of opening-night wins coming to an end, the team is below .500 for the first time in almost seven years, per Sportsnet Stats.
Raptors sit below .500 for the first time since January 7, 2014 when they were 16-17.- Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) December 24, 2020
A pretty remarkable stat.
9. What's next?
The Pelicans will play on Christmas Day for the second consecutive year when they face the defending Eastern Conference Champion Miami Heat at 10:30 p.m. (IST). The Raptors are back in action on Boxing Day, when they travel to take on DeMar DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs at 7:00 a.m. (IST, Dec. 27).
See you then.
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