With Kyle Lowry back in the lineup, the Raptors look to get back on track and start a new streak in New Orleans.
Start time: 8:00 PM ET
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Mickael Pietrus, Ed Davis, Aaron Gray
New Orleans: Greivis Vasquez, Austin Rivers, Lance Thomas, Anthony Davis, Robin Lopez
Toronto: Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas are out
New Orleans: Eric Gordon is still out, while Jason Smith is questionable
- The story of the day is obviously Kyle Lowry’s return to the court. Lowry will come off the bench just as he did in his first game back from injury earlier this season, but you get the feeling that this isn’t the same situation. When Lowry returned from the ankle injury in November, he came off the bench to ease back into things and was starting again by the next night. This time around, it seems he’ll have to legitimately win back his starting spot from Jose Calderon. Of course, what matters is who finishes games, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of both Lowry and Calderon on the floor together in crunch time.
- While everyone speculates about how Lowry will handle coming off the bench, I’m just as curious about how Calderon will handle starting now that there is competition around again. Remember, Jose’s best stretches this season and in his career have come when filling in for an injured point guard ahead of him on the depth chart, but he’s yet to consistently outplay Lowry with Kyle actually healthy. The Raptors need Calderon to play at the same level he’s been at recently, not revert back to the point guard that always leaves fans wanting someone else.
- I wonder how much longer Mickael Pietrus will remain a starter for this team. He’s playing well defensively, but he’s not bringing enough to the table right now, and it shows in his dwindling minutes (less than 18 minutes per game over last six games). The next logical step would seem to be to replace Pietrus in the starting five, especially with the Raptors finally having their full wing rotation healthy.
- We won’t get to see him on the floor at the same time as Jonas Valanciuans, but tonight will still mark the first meeting between the Raptors and Anthony Davis. He’s struggled through some injury woes to start his NBA career, but when he has been healthy, the results have been there for the Kentucky product. He’s averaging 14.5 points (on over 49% shooting), 8.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals in 31.4 minutes per game while sporting a PER of 21.26. Not bad for a 19-year-old rookie big man.
- Before the five-game winning streak, I constantly harped on my opinion that no game on the schedule should be seen as “winnable” with the way the Raptors had been playing, especially on the road. But the streak changed things a bit, and the Spurs game notwithstanding, I think most people believe this Raps team is better than the 4-19 squad that opened the season. How they perform on the road tonight in New Orleans and tomorrow night in Orlando should give us some indication as to whether those people are right, because as I mentioned on Wednesday, the 4-19 team loses these next two games, while the team that took care of lesser opponents to reel off five straight wins before the holidays takes at least one of two, if not both. So, which team shows up?