It was a Toronto Raptors house opener in contrast to every other, performed a few thousand kilometres from house, in entrance of a tiny bipartisan crowd, on a day that noticed the league postpone a recreation — on simply Day 2 of the season — as a result of COVID-19.
Additionally uncommon for the Raptors: a loss.
Brandon Ingram scored 24 factors, JJ Redick added 23 and the New Orleans Pelicans shot the lights out within the third quarter en path to a 113-99 win, handing Toronto its first loss on opening evening in eight years.
“[The third quarter] … zapped our energy pretty big time,” coach Nick Nurse stated. “We did seem to lose a little energy and maybe ran out of a little gas, too.”
WATCH | Raptors fade towards Pelicans in season opener:
Pascal Siakam had 20 factors in considered one of Toronto’s brilliant spots. Kyle Lowry added 18 factors and 10 assists, Aron Baynes had 11 factors and 9 rebounds, and Norman Powell and Chris Boucher chipped in with 12 factors apiece.
The Raptors led for a lot of the first half however went ice chilly within the third quarter. Whereas the Pelicans knocked down seven threes within the body, the Raptors went 0-for-10 and had been outscored by 16 factors.
Main 88-79 to begin the fourth, the Pelicans stored their foot on the fuel. When Redick knocked down a three-pointer with 5:15 to play, New Orleans led by 14 factors.
Siakam was stable within the loss, which is sweet information for the Raptors after his disappointing efficiency within the Walt Disney World bubble final summer time.
He’d been having fun with a profession 12 months earlier than the NBA shut down as a result of COVID-19 and was by no means fairly himself when the league resumed. Followers weren’t sort to the 26-year-old when the Raptors had been eradicated by Boston within the second spherical of the playoffs.
He not solely scored on an array of photographs Wednesday, however pitched some wonderful passes out of crowds, ending with six assists, six rebounds, and three three-pointers.
“I’m getting back to just running and attacking, making plays and stuff, so I felt good about it,” Siakam stated. “Obviously, we didn’t get the win and we didn’t play like we wanted to and [the Pelicans had] a good stint out there where they made a lot of shots and we weren’t able to stop them, but I think for the most part I like what I brought.”
The evening marked the start of essentially the most weird season in Raptors historical past. A restricted crowd of three,800 followers — who appeared to be cheering for each groups — dotted Amalie Area, Toronto’s momentary house for not less than the primary half of the season as a result of Canada’s journey restrictions round COVID-19.
“I don’t know if it’s all Raptors fans or what the case might be, but I thought it was cool, just having people around it,” Siakam stated. “Obviously we’re blessed that we have some people, some type of energy in the crowd to make the atmosphere a little better.”
In an indication of those unusual occasions, the Raptors mascot waved the group flag earlier than the sport clad in a black protecting face masks.
The Raptors tipped off a number of hours after the league introduced Houston’s recreation towards Oklahoma Metropolis was postponed as a result of optimistic COVID-19 assessments. James Harden’s violation of the league’s coronavirus protocols left the Rockets with out the league-mandated eight obtainable gamers.
It was a discouraging blow on Day 2 of a season that feels just like the league is enjoying with its collective fingers crossed whereas the pandemic continues to rage within the U.S.
Virus scare for Powell
The Raptors had their very own COVID-19 scare this week. Powell had missed a few days of apply, and was listed as questionable after some inconclusive assessments with somebody near him.
“It’s tough, you know?” Powell stated. “However that is just about what it’s important to do. I did all the things proper by way of following the protocol, ensuring that I used to be good, I used to be secure, folks round me had been secure. However nonetheless, you may get caught up in inconclusive assessments and whatnot.
“It was form of irritating, you recognize, to sit down out the necessary days main as much as the sport.”
Nurse stated regardless of the rocky begin, he is “pretty snug” about enjoying.
“I perceive that there are some folks — gamers and workers, et cetera — testing optimistic,” he said. “I might be far more involved if there was plenty of gamers going to the hospital, plenty of workers going to the hospital, and I simply do not see that because the case with all these schools and universities and all of the athletes that take a look at.”
Amalie Area is considered one of only a few services across the league that’s allowing a restricted variety of followers this season.
The Raptors now depart on their first street journey of the common season, enjoying towards former teammate DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs in San Antonio on Boxing Day. They play at Philadelphia on Dec. 28.