Toronto Raptors vs New Orleans Pelicans

 Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors look to get back on track when they face off against Jrue Holiday and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, March 8th at 8:00 PM EST at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA. The broadcast is available on SN/SN1 and Fox Sports New Orleans; radio is available via Sportsnet 590 The FAN and WRNO 99.5FM.

How to Watch

What: Toronto Raptors at New Orleans Pelicans

Where: Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA

When: Friday, March 8th at 8:00 PM EST

How (TV/Radio): SN/SN1, Fox Sports New Orleans | Sportsnet 590 The FAN, WRNO 99.5FM.

Toronto Raptors (Away)

Head Coach: Nick Nurse {All-Time 46-19 | TOR}

After a setback against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night, the Toronto Raptors sit second in the Eastern Conference. With a record of 46-19, they trail the Milwaukee Bucks by 2.5 games and their lead over the Pacers in third has fallen to four games.

Despite back-to-back losses, the Toronto Raptors have been able to maintain their composure in recent matches. They are 7-3 in their last ten matches, impressive considering they do not even have 14 players on the roster. Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin are still fitting into the offense, but time is running out for them to be playoff ready.

The Toronto Raptors come up against a New Orleans Pelicans team that is in turmoil. A minutes restriction for star Anthony Davis ruins the fluidity of the Pelicans lineup, resulting in many poor performances. After losing to the Rockets, the Raptors surely want to get back on track against a lesser team.

New Orleans Pelicans (Home)

Head Coach: Alvin Gentry {All-Time 477-540 | MIA, DET, PHX, NOP}

The New Orleans Pelicans are maintaining their course for the lottery in June. Now 6.5 games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference, their 30-36 record does little to suggest that they might make it into the post-season.

While the Pelicans haven't been spectacular since the Anthony Davis debacle, they have come into some decent form as of late. They are 5-5 in their last ten matches, but they are currently on a three-game winning streak. Wins over the Suns, Nuggets, and Jazz show that the Pelicans aren't just going to lay down and wait for the season to end.

The New Orleans Pelicans are unsure of their lineup when the Toronto Raptors come into town. The team has been dealing with some nagging injuries as of late and aren't in the business of fighting through when there's nothing to truly fight for. This Raptors team is one of the best in the NBA. If the Pelicans want to stop them, it'll have to start at the point of attack.

What's At Stake?

The Toronto Raptors have dominated the matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans all-time. In 36 regular season matches, the Raptors lead the Pelicans 22-14.

A win for the Toronto Raptors would bring them to within two games of the Milwaukee Bucks who are in first place.

A win for the New Orleans Pelicans would leave them where they stand, twelfth in the West.

Questions to answer

Who can answer the call for the Raptors off the bench?

Do the Pelicans have quality?

We are going to compare the Toronto Raptors and the New Orleans Pelicans in an attempt to see who has the advantage in this matchup.

The Raptors Bench Play Must Improve

When the Toronto Raptors played the Houston Rockets it was billed as a possible Finals Preview. The Toronto Raptors are one of the strongest teams in the East while the Rockets have finally gotten on a roll to be considered top tier in the West. Unfortunately, the game was decided by the bench units.

Where the Rockets bench unit thrived, the Raptors bench unit was weak. Gerald Green almost outscored the Raptors bench on his own (18 to 20) and there was no true resistance. Going down 20 in the first half was made up for by the Raptors' brilliant starting five, but it was all downhill from there.

After a third quarter that brought the game level by the Raptors starters, the bench unit came in and stalled their progress entirely. Anunoby and Gasol were a -30, Jeremy Lin was a -22, and Norman Powell was a -16. The only saving grace was Patrick McCaw who, for all his effort, isn't a massive difference maker. The bench is almost a new roster at this point in the year, but there is no excuse when the starters dig you out of a hole you put yourself in.

Look Deeper, New Orleans Has The Sauce

The story of the Pelicans tends to start and end with the drama surrounding Anthony Davis, which is a disappointment. Mostly because there is quality on the Pelicans roster outside of him. Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle are key examples of that talent.

After trailing by 17 points to the Utah Jazz on the road, the Pelicans were able to close the first half on a 9-3 run. They would continue scrapping to get back into the game where they trailed by as many as 14 points at two different points in the fourth quarter.

The comeback was keyed by the brilliant Jrue Holiday, who kept the Pelicans in the game via his crafty playmaking and scoring. He scored 30 while Julius Randle scored 28 to take down the Utah Jazz. While Randle does little more than score at this point in his career, Holiday's ability on both ends of the court is fantastic. Whether or not he is in the future plans of the Pelicans is up for debate, but he is certainly one of the NBA's most capable point guards. Unfortunately, he is buried on one of the NBA's least impressive teams.

Toronto Raptors Roster Notes

G Fred Vanvleet - 13 Feb 2019 - Out (Left Thumb Soreness) - The Raptors announced G Fred VanVleet will undergo surgery on his thumb and miss approximately five weeks.

New Orleans Pelicans Roster Notes

G Dairis Bertans - 5 Mar 2019 - Out (Personal) - Bertans has been ruled OUT for Wednesday's (Mar 6) game.

G Trevon Bluiett - 1 Feb 2019 - Out (Thumb) - The Pelicans announced that Bluiett had surgery to repair a ligament in his right thumb. There is no timetable for his return.

C Jahlil Okafor - 5 Mar 2019 - Day To Day (Ankle) - Okafor is listed as questionable for Wednesday's (Mar 6) game.

Head-to-Head: Norman Powell (TOR) vs E'Twaun Moore (NOP)

Both teams boast capable starting lineups, so the key matchup for this game is found on the bench. Norman Powell is an athletic slashing guard who is capable of going off as much as he is to not make an impact. On the other side, E'Twaun Moore is a streaky shooter with the ability to punish lazy defenses.

Norman Powell

Shooting Guard | 6-4, 215lb (193cm, 97kg) | UCLA | Exp. 3 Years

8.0 PPG | 1.5 APG | 1.9 RPG | 0.6 SPG | 0.2 BPG | 1.0 TOV | .460 FG% | .356 3P%

With Fred Vanvleet out of the lineup, Norman Powell is now the defacto leader of the Toronto Raptors bench unit. While they boast Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin off the bench, Norman Powell is the sole player with total knowledge of the Raptors schemes. He was awful in the Raptors' last match against the Rockets and will need to rebound against the Pelicans. He's already taken a backseat at times to Patrick McCaw, Powell needs a performance to justify his place.

E'Twaun Moore

Shooting Guard | 6-4, 191lb (193cm, 86kg) | Purdue | Exp. 7 Years

12.1 PPG | 2.0 APG | 2.4 RPG | 0.8 SPG | 0.2 BPG | 1.1 TOV | .482 FG% | .428 3P%

E'Twaun Moore has really come into his own in his third season with the Pelicans. The game has turned his way as a shameless bench scorer. He did not play against the Nuggets and had a quiet night against the Jazz in his last match. Considering the weakness of the Toronto Raptors bench, Moore should be prepared to take advantage of the second-string players.

Toronto Raptors at New Orleans Pelicans Predictions and Odds

The oddsmakers have the Toronto Raptors favored over the New Orleans Pelicans by 4.5, with an over/under of 110.

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