The Toronto Raptors are coming off of a pair of substandard performances, losing to the Pistons in Detroit last Sunday and to Houston at home on Tuesday. With time running out in the NBA regular season and Toronto still 2.5 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks (pending the outcome of the Bucks’ Thursday night game against Indiana) they need to start winning games.
The good news is that they’re entering a stretch of five games against very beatable teams. The only playoff qualified team they’ll play in that stretch is the Miami Heat who are hanging on to the #8 position in the East by their fingernails. Four of the games are on the road but they’re against New Orleans, Miami and Cleveland. The lone home game in that stretch is against the dysfunctional Los Angeles Lakers. The Raptors have won their share of road games this season going 19-12 SU though they’ve struggled against the spread with a 14-19-1 record.
Friday’s opponent is a made to order matchup–the New Orleans Pelicans have played reasonably well lately and at one point had covered six straight and 7 of 8. That came to an end with a resounding thud on Wednesday night at home against the Utah Jazz where they lost 114-104 and failed to cover as +4.5 dogs. Now the Raptors come in–a statistically better team with a better W/L record–at the same price.
The Pelicans are a brutally dysfunctional team as evidenced by the whole Anthony Davis fiasco. At this point, Davis just can’t be counted on. He sits out frequently and plays fewer minutes when he does find his way into the lineup. New Orleans has some injuries to deal with as well, most problematic being an abdominal injury suffered by point guard Jrue Holiday. He’s listed as being ‘out indefinitely’ but the more likely timeframe is a week to ten days. At any rate, he’ll miss this game. E’Twaun Moore has been hampered by injuries all season and will miss the Raptors game with a quad injury. There’s some talk of shutting him down for the year. Jahlil Okafor sprained his ankle in the loss to the Jazz and is listed as ‘questionable’ for Friday’s game.
Toronto is definitely the better team. The Raptors and Pelicans haven’t played since November 12 when New Orleans won at Toronto as +9.5 road underdogs. They’ve definitely regressed since then while Toronto has improved to championship contending form. Five straight in the series have been won and covered by the road team and this one should as well.