Vanvleet scores ca­reer-high 34, Rap­tors top Pel­i­cans 130-122

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - By Ian Har­ri­son Associated Press

TORONTO – The Toronto Rap­tors slipped on shiny new rings, un­furled a cham­pi­onship ban­ner, then got their ti­tle de­fense started with a hard-fought vic­tory.

Fred Vanvleet scored a ca­reer-high 34 points, Pas­cal Si­akam fouled out with 34 points and 18 re­bounds, and the de­fend­ing cham­pion Rap­tors beat the New Or­leans Pel­i­cans 130-122 in over­time on Tues­day night in the NBA’S sea­son-open­ing game.

“Pas­cal and Freddy, they are the young core, they are the guys who will carry this thing on,” Rap­tors guard Kyle Lowry said. “I’m so happy for those guys to go out and per­form like tonight. We’ll see them grow all year.”

Lowry scored 22 points, in­clud­ing a pair of free throws that put Toronto in the lead for good, and Serge Ibaka had 13 as the Rap­tors won their sev­enth straight sea­son opener and posted their eighth win in nine meet­ings with the Pel­i­cans.

“It’s very fun to be in the po­si­tion that we’re in where we just won it but we’re kind of on the climb again,” Vanvleet said.

Pel­i­cans guard Jrue Hol­i­day tied it at 122 by mak­ing a pair of free throws with 2:23 left in over­time. Lowry an­swered with his foul shots, Vanvleet hit a cor­ner 3, and Lowry also con­nected from long range to cap a de­ci­sive 8-0 run.

“They made a cou­ple of big plays at the end that gave them sepa­ra­tion,” Pel­i­cans coach Alvin Gen­try said. “That was the dif­fer­ence in the game.”

Bran­don In­gram scored 22 points and Josh Hart had 15 points and 10 re­bounds for New Or­leans, which be­gan the sea­son without No. 1 pick Zion Wil­liamson. JJ Redick scored 16 points, Ni­colò Melli had 14 and Hol­i­day added 13.

The Pel­i­cans made 19 turnovers, lead­ing to 22 Toronto points. Twelve of New Or­leans’ turnovers came in the sec­ond half and over­time.

“We played hard, but we’ve also got to play smart,” Gen­try said. “We didn’t play smart down the stretch there.”

Lowry made a pair of free throws to tie it 117-all with 29 sec­onds left in reg­u­la­tion, and Toronto’s Norman Powell grabbed the re­bound on a missed shot by Hol­i­day, giv­ing the Rap­tors one last shot with 8.9 sec­onds to go.

Powell got the ball, but his long 3-pointer hit the back of the rim and bounced out, send­ing it to over­time.

Be­fore the game, the Rap­tors re­ceived the big­gest cham­pi­onship rings in NBA his­tory and un­furled a ban­ner cel­e­brat­ing their sixgame tri­umph over Golden State last June.

“I have to start lift­ing more weights so I can carry it around,” Vanvleet joked.

The Rap­tors lost NBA Fi­nals MVP Kawhi Leonard to the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers in free agency, and also saw guard Danny Green leave for the Lak­ers.

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