Unfurling a championship banner, donning their title rings and even shedding a tear, the 2018-19 NBA champs kitted up for their opening battle of the season against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Noticeably affected by the emotional pregame ceremony, the Raptors start was shaky, to say the least, but Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, perhaps the North's two best offensive weapons, soon locked in, empowering their team to victory.
VanVleet, who appeared to be in complete control until an ankle injury slowed him in the fourth, hit a career-high 34 points whilst Siakam put up 34 points and 18 rebounds before being fouled out at 38 minutes of game time.
The Raptors decision to offer their Cameroonian power forward a four-year maximum extension to his contract is already reaping significant benefits as Siakam warns the NBA he will continue to improve.
Although Raptors captain, Kyle Lowry, didn't impress with his shot (4-of-15), the team veteran was quick to counter every mistake made by New Orleans. His rebuttal earned him five rebounds and two steals along with 22 points, including 3-of-11 from deep, and six assists overall.
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Despite missing their star rookie Zion Williamson, the Pelicans weren't without height or power in the backcourt with Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball and J.J. Redick. Holiday and Redick added 13 and 16 points respectively whilst Brandon Ingram hit 22, with five rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and one steal in 35 minutes game time. Ingram is set to log heavy minutes this season as he raises no shortage of shots.
Josh Hart led the Pelicans in rebounds, challenging big guys in the paint despite his 6'5" stature. The third-year shooting guard also hit his 13th career double-double, putting up 15 points in 28 minutes.
Lowry was set to close the game before OT, scooping up a loose ball with 30 seconds on the clock. Escorting his quick break all the way to the rim established the draw and would have sealed the deal had Norman Powell sank his deep three.
As the Pelicans forced the game into overtime at a 117 draw, on a court missing fouled-out Siakam, the Raptor's security looked uncertain for the first time in the game. Holiday tied it at 122 on free throws with 2:23 left on OT, Lowry continued to counter with his own foul shots making it 124-122. In a final rundown, VanVleet hit a corner three whilst Lowry sank one from deep to shutdown the scoreboard at 130-122.
Over in the Staples Centre, former Raptors Kawhi Leanord and Danny Green each layed down the law for their now opposing new homes. Contributing 18 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists in 36 minutes, it wasn't enough for LeBron who says the Lakers still have room to improve as his team crumbled under Kawhi's game-high for the Clippers.
Following an NBA summer that saw both Los Angeles teams in a heated recruiting battle over small forward, Kawhi, the Staples centre was packed out last night with fans eager to see the fight take to the floor. The 112-102 win was a victory for the Clippers in a house that stood divided.
With a 0-for-2, two turnover opening, it took Kawhi a minute to bring the show to Los Angeles, but once settled, the performance was nothing short of impressive. Hitting seven consecutive shots and scoring 15 of his 30 points, Leanord was unstoppable for a seven-minute shooting campaign that marked the turning point in a 13-2 early Lakers lead.
Up six by this point, the Clippers continued to show up big with their bigs, Montrezl Harrell held down the offence with seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block.
Despite only scoring two points, Patrick Beverley continued to show his importance in the Clippers roster, bodying up to LeBron early on, contending with Lakers' Anthony Davis late in the second quarter, battling the 6'10" power forward on a jump ball, and leading the team in rebounds (10).
However, it was the Lakers' new addition, Danny Green, that lit up the court in the third with five threes shot from all over the floor: a corner assisted by James, top of the arc, a catch-and-shoot from the other corner and finally from both elbows with assists by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Davis. Green racked up 28 points and 7 rebounds outscoring both James and Davis, who scored 25, making 9 of 14 free throws.
Despite the Danny Green, LeBron James and Anthony Davis powerhouse, the Clippers walk away with a victory as Kawhi exerts his dominance even in the absence of teammate Paul George. The LA rivalry continues.
Eleven more fixtures play out this evening, including the Boston Celtics at Philadelphia and the Minnesota Timberwolves at Brooklyn.News Now - Sport News