Expect Low-Scoring Affair in Rematch

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Raptors Odds -1.5 [BET NOW]
Pelicans Odds +1.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -120 / +100 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 213 [BET NOW]
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV League Pass
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The Toronto Raptors hope 2021 brings them a fresh start to the young season, having struggled out of the gate with a 1-3 record. They go for a second straight win on Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans, whose stingy defense has them out to a 3-2 start.

Both teams are fresh off dominant victories on New Year’s Eve in a rematch of the teams’ season opener, which the Pelicans won handily, 113-99, thanks to New Orleans outscoring Toronto by 21 in the second half.

In a matchup of two strong defenses and struggling offenses, I anticipate a low-scoring affair, which means I see value in the total.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors look like a completely different team than the team that finished last season second in the Eastern Conference at 53-19. Due to travel restrictions placed by the Canadian federal government, the Raptors are currently playing their home games in Tampa. This could be one reason for the slow start.

During the offseason, the Raptors lost two starters in the frontcourt in Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, both of whom provided veteran leadership and a strong defensive presence. Toronto brought in Aron Baynes, a tough center that can shoot 3-pointers, to help fill the void. Last season with Phoenix, Baynes averaged four 3-point attempts per game and shot 35.1% from behind the arc. Like the Raptors as a team, he’s not off to the best start to this season.

After losing their first three games, the Raptors finally won their previous game over the Knicks. This came without Pascal Siakam, who was held out of the game for disciplinary reasons. Toronto will hope that lights a fire under Siakam, who is only shooting 39% from the field this season.

Entering Friday’s games, the Raptors rank 30th in Offensive Rating (98.1) according to NBA Advanced Stats.  One interesting stat to note is they are hoisting 3-pointers at a higher rate than last year’s record-breaking Houston Rockets. This season, the Raptors started Friday first with 51.4% of their shots attempted coming from beyond the arc. They’re averaging 46 3-point attempts per game.

However, Toronto is not hitting them at a high clip, ranking just 20th with their 34.2% mark from beyond the arc. I don’t expect the Raptors to figure this out against the Pelicans.

To be successful, the Raptors will have to revert their habits to last season where they ranked first in Defensive Rating. Despite their offensive struggles this season, their Defensive Rating started Friday ranked third (100.0).

Toronto is forcing turnovers and are ranked second in Opponent’s Turnover percentage, which is one area the Pelicans offense struggles with. This should ultimately limit the number of possessions and make the case for a low-scoring game


New Orleans Pelicans

New Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy is known for his emphasis on defense and discipline. Another key offseason acquisition helps both of those things, as well, is center Steven Adams, who instantly gives the Pelicans an “enforcer” and makes them a more imposing frontcourt.  His ability to protect the rim and rebound the ball has been a great complement to sophomore sensation Zion Williamson.

The young Pelicans have responded positively and entered Friday ranked fourth in Defensive Rating (101.0), per NBA Advanced Stats. They have good size in the backcourt in Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe, which bodes well in guarding Toronto’s starting guard pairing of Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet.

The Pelicans are still adjusting to a new offensive philosophy and have not found their footing on that end of the court just yet.  They are dead last in Pace after being the fourth fastest team in the previous season.  New Orleans is 25th in Offensive Rating (102.6) and 22nd in Effective Field Goal percentage (51.2%).

One area where the Pelicans have an edge over the Raptors: rebounding. Toronto won’t be able to secure many second-chance points off its poor shooting. The Pelicans outrebounded the Raptors, 45-35, in their previous matchup and should continue to control the boards.

Raptors-Pelicans Pick

This season, according to our Bet Labs database, these teams have combined to go 8-1 under the total this season.

Since 2017, non-conference same-season rematches where their previous matchup went under and the total decreased from the previous game are 77-48-2 (61.6%) to the under, per the Sports Database Query Language database.

This season, teams who held opponents to 100 points or fewer in their previous game are 15-2-2 to the under, per the SDQL database.

I expect a physical game in which both teams should continue their strong defensive play, especially since they are already familiar with each other from the season opener. I have no trust in either team’s offense until proven otherwise and my expectations is that this will be a low-scoring grind of a game.

The total for their season opener just over a week ago closed at 228.5. The total for Saturday’s game opened at 216 and has already been bet down to 213, and I still don’t think it is low enough. I make the fair total at 209 and like the under at 213 and would bet it down to 211.

Pick: Under 213 (down to 211)

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