Toronto Raptors Begin NBA Second Half With a Lot of Work To Do

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Toronto Raptors Begin NBA Second Half With a Lot of Work To Do
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First, the good news: The Raptors are at home Thursday for a game against the New Orleans Pelicans, their first game after the All-Star break, and several key bodies are returning from injury.

OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr. and Thad Young all participated in team practice last night and coach Nick Nurse said all are good and ready to go. 

Here is how some of the NBA settings sites see the game.

Raptors Start With Pelicans, No Easy Task

The Raptors (28-31) are going into the second half right on the edge of the NBA’s play-in tournament (April 11-14) – 10th in the Eastern Conference, 5.5 games back of the New York Knicks, who hold down the sixth spot, the last of the guaranteed playoff spots. If the play-in started today, the Raptors would play the ninth-place Washington Wizards.

The Pelicans are no pushover – seventh in the Western Conference, 30-29. 

However, Zion Williamson is out with a right hamstring issue. On Dec. 30, the Pelicans were tied for first place in the conference. Williamson hurt his hamstring Jan. 2. Ten days ago it was reported he had suffered a setback in his rehab and would be out for several more weeks. 

In 29 games, the power forward had been averaging 26 PPG, 33 minutes of playing time, with a 60.8 FG percentage, 36.8 three-point percentage, averaging seven rebounds, 4.6 assists. He led that team through December after Brandon Ingram had a toe injury.

Proline has the moneyline at Raptors 1.50, Pelicans at 2.65, and the Spread at Raptors -5.5, New Orleans +5.5. The O/U with Proline is over 226.5. PointsBet Canada has the Moneyline Raptors 1.53, Pelicans 2.6.

Raptors Were Hot Before the All-Star Break

Toronto has won five of its past six games, after a 123-113 win over the Orlando Magic heading into the break. Toronto will play seven of its next eight games (Feb. 25 - Mar. 10) on the road. They have 23 games left – 10 at home, 13 on the road.

Of those games, 12 are against teams with a .500 record or better. 

Fred VanVleet had a season-high 15 assists in that game against Orlando. Pascal Siakam has scored over 25 points in four consecutive games. Trent Jr. led the Raptors in scoring the last time these teams met – a Pelicans’ 126-108 win on Nov. 30. Trent Jr. had 35 points that night. 

C Jakob Poetl has entered the lineup since the trade with San Antonio and has fit right in. He scored a game-high 30 points in that win over Orlando, along with nine rebounds and six blocks. 

So with healthy bodies coming back, a final stretch weighted down by more road games (they’re 10-18 on the road), a game tomorrow night in which they are favoured, followed by road games this week against the lowly Detroit Pistons (15-44) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (38-23) the time to make some hay in terms of standings gains is right now.


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Mark Keast

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