Kyle Lowry, the Raptors best player, is sidelined with a wrist injury that required surgery last week. In case it slipped your mind, Lowry was responsible for the Raptors coming back from a 14-point deficit to beat the Pelicans in overtime in the team’s first matchup of the season.
Yes, DeMar DeRozan, who missed that game, will suit up, but he’s not the same all-around weapon as one of the Eastern Conference’s best point guards. According to NBAwowy, Toronto is 10.4 points better per 100 possessions against all opponents with Lowry on/DeRozan off on the season versus -4.7 points with DeRozan on/Lowry off. That’s an astounding difference!
Further, there is a decent chance DeMarre Carroll will not be able to play after sustaining an ankle injury on Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks. Although he’s not nearly as effective as he was in Atlanta, Carroll is an important cog in Toronto’s plan of attack.
Since losing Lowry to injury, the Raptors have enjoyed just one win in three tries on the road — a 1-point win in New York against the Knicks that required every single one of DeRozan’s 37 points.
Speaking of the shooting guard’s exploits, the Raptors are 4-0 on the season when he’s topped the 30-point barrier without Lowry in the lineup. They’re 0-2 when he’s fallen short of that scoring mark.
Why am I confident the Pelicans can keep DeRozan under wraps? For one, New Orleans defense has been really good since the All-Star break. If you exclude the laugher against the Rockets in DeMarcus Cousins very first game, New Orleans has posted a 98.3 defensive rating in their last six games. That’s San Antonio Spurs territory.
In addition, Solomon Hill, who was a part of that Indiana Pacer team which nearly upset the Raptors in the first round of the 2016 playoffs, spent time covering DeRozan and has great knowledge of the game plan required to stop the explosive scorer. I fully expect him to hound DeRozan all night long.
I’m not bold enough to predict the outright victory, but I’m fairly confident in writing that New Orleans should have a very good chance to secure the win. Plus, coming off a really dismal performance against the Utah Jazz on Monday, the Pelicans should have plenty of motivation to make amends. #BounceBack
What: Pelicans vs Raptors
Where: Smoothie King Center — New Orleans, LA
When: March 8, 2017 at 7:00 PM Central
How: Fox Sports New Orleans, 99.5 FM WRNO