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NBA Preview: 15th February

WE are back to tackle some more NBA action this week as we push towards the mid-season All-Star break.

Here’s a look at the best value on the card for today:

Toronto Raptors @ New Orleans Pelicans

THE Toronto Raptors head back out on the road to take on the New Orleans Pelicans in the first of a two-game road trip before the All-Star Break. This game sets up as a nice bounce back spot for the Raptors after losing a tightly fought battle against the Nuggets in what was a tough scheduling spot last time out.

Toronto has been elite to kick start the new year, ranking in the top ten at both ends of the court. Over the past eight games their offfence has been seven points per 100 possessions above league average while their defence has been impressively stingy – allowing four less points than the league average for the third best points differential in the NBA.

Their work on the offensive glass has been a huge contributing factor to their success. The Raptors are relentless on chasing misses and grab the second most offensive rebounds per game (13) but more importantly do a great job on converting these extra opportunities into points, scoring 18 second chance points per game.

They have also had a lot of success running Pascal Siakam at the Center position. It allows Toronto to be more aggressive offensively with their threat of scoring inside-out a huge factor. Moving Siakam to the five has also allowed greater depth in a side that was struggling with their bench units. Chris Boucher has become a spark of the bench and has the ability to eat opponent second units on the offensive glass.

Toronto also thrives in the open court, forcing opponents to turn the ball over and attacking in transition. They score nearly 20 points a game off opponent turnovers – this, coupled with their second chance points converted, makes it easy to see why this unit has been so dominate scoring the ball this season.

This game kicks off the start of a tough three game stint for the Pels as they look to make the most of new recruit CJ McCollum and more importantly, deal with the holes left by their outgoing pieces. The Pelicans depth has always been a concern but losing key components to their rotation is going to put a strain on their bench pieces, who have underperformed all season.

McCollum and Brandon Ingram are an interesting combination, giving the Pelicans two offensive threats who can create for themselves. This is an important factor because a lot of New Orleans’ playmaking has just been traded away.

The teams last game against San Antonio is a great reference point for how this game is likely to play out. San Antonio and Toronto draw a lot of similarities in that they both attack the offensive glass and play a lot of offence in transition.

The difference maker in that game was the turnovers and second chance points allowed. New Orleans turned the ball over 15 times leading to 19 points for their opponents. They can ill afford to repeat this today against a Toronto opponent who have a significantly better offence and multiple weapons to attack any opportunity the Pelicans provide.

Toronto also holds the upper hand in three-point scoring. Since the start of the new year the Raptors are shooting the lights out from deep ranking second in the league. A lot of this is quite noisy, admittedly, with Gary Trent Jr specifically performing at a level that is not maintainable, regression to the mean is due.  While we might expect a downturn in Toronto’s three point scoring, over the same period New Orleans have ranked in the bottom five sides of the league in three-point frequency and accuracy allowing the Raptors every opportunity to perform at a high level.

Both teams have the ability to put up points and it’s not surprising to see my numbers showing an edge towards the over in this game. I definitely side with Toronto in this game but I have them priced pretty fairly in this situation. While its hard to gauge CJ’s impact and incorporation in the Pelicans with such a small sample size, I’m certain his pedigree as a scorer will assist in the offensive struggles New Orleans has had.

Our best bet: Over 221.5 points $1.90 at PlayUp


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