Three takeaways from NBA opening night

Pascal Siakam

A lot more teams still have to make their debuts, but let’s access opening night first.

The 2019-20 NBA season is officially underway, and we got two great matchups to kick off the year.

New Orleans put up a fight against the defending champion Raptors but were topped in overtime 130-122.

In the late game, the Lakers and Clippers battled for control of Los Angeles, and the Clippers prevailed, 112-102.

A lot more teams still have to make their debuts, but let’s access opening night first.

Here are three takeaways from NBA opening night:

Toronto is no slouch

The departure of Kawhi Leonard will be a popular topic of discussion surrounding the Raptors this year, but they showed Tuesday that they can still play at a high level. Although Toronto’s leader, Kyle Lowry, struggled from the field against the Pelicans and made just four of his 15 shot attempts, his teammates showed they made some improvements over the summer.

Pascal Siakam let the game come to him, even fresh off his $130 million extension. Last year’s Most Improved Player tallied 34 points, 18 rebounds and five rebounds in an astounding performance that showed he can be all Toronto wants him to be. He fouled out of the game before overtime but showed an all-around game few others can match.

Even more surprising was Fred VanVleet, who notched a career-high 34 points and seven assists on five made 3-pointers. Needless to say, the Raptors are so much more than Leonard and can be even better when Lowry is firing on all cylinders as well. Toronto might not win the Eastern Conference, but it will definitely be a competitive team and playoff contender.

The Pelicans are more loaded than we thought

New Orleans came at the Raptors hard and fast in this year’s season opener and showed flashes of what they can be given time. The Pelicans acquired a plethora of young pieces over the summer via trades, free agency, and the draft. Those assets came together nicely even though they haven’t been together long.

Brandon Ingram paced New Orleans with a team-high 22 points while Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick, Niccolo Melli, and Josh Hart all scored in double figures as well. The Pelicans’ second unit featured some unexpected lineups and struggled at various points, though, so the rotations could need some tweaking. However, competing with the team the won the NBA Finals last year on the road is no small feat, and that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

The Pelicans’ promising game comes on the heels of news that superstar rookie Zion Williamson will be sidelined to start the year as he recovers from a torn meniscus he underwent a procedure for. The Western Conference is a different beast, but there’s no telling what the ceiling could for New Orleans.

The battle for Los Angeles will be really fun to watch

Neither the Lakers or Clippers were at full strength on opening night, but the energy at the Staples Center was something else. Even though the Clippers served as the home team, the stands were filled with Lakers fans who showered boos on Kawhi Leonard. But the reigning NBA Finals MVP wasn’t unfazed as he led his team to victory.

The fun guy himself torched the Lakers with 30 points, six rebounds, and five assists and had no Paul George with him.

The Lakers were missing Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo but did have their superstar duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who combined for 43 points, 19 rebounds, and 13 assists. Danny Green unexpectedly exploded for a team-high 28 points but the Clippers’ 60 bench points were a difference-maker.

Knowing that this was such a good game with key pieces missing for both sides should only make basketball fans more excited for later meetings.