Pascal Siakam and the Toronto Raptors host Jrue Holiday and the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, and tipoff from the Scotiabank Arena is set for 8 p.m. ET. NBA Opening Night 2019 was supposed to be the long-awaited pro debut of Rookie of the Year favorite Zion Williamson, but we’re going to have to wait since the first overall pick will miss several weeks with a knee injury. Both teams are healthy outside of Zion’s knee injury. Toronto is listed as a seven-point home favorite, while the over-under for total points is 231.5 in the latest Raptors vs Pelicans odds. Before you make any Pelicans vs. Raptors picks, you’ll want to see the NBA predictions from SportsLine’s advanced computer model.
The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times, and anyone who followed it last season saw massive returns. The model finished 300-252 on all its top-rated picks. On top-rated against-the-spread and money line NBA picks alone, the model returned a whopping $4,280.
Now, it has locked in on Raptors vs. Pelicans. We can tell you it’s leaning under, and it also says one side of the spread hits in over 50 percent of simulations. You can only see that selection at SportsLine.
The model is well aware that the defending 2018-19 NBA Champions have the advantage of playing on their home court and have more continuity on their roster than New Orleans.
Holiday and E’Twaun Moore are the only players projected to get significant minutes that were part of New Orleans’ rotation last year. Meanwhile, the Raptors return most of their championship core, led by the NBA’s 2018-19 Most Improved Player, Siakam. Toronto also posted a 15-7 record against the spread in games without Kawhi Leonard last year, so it is clear that this team knows how to win without him.
Just because New Orleans might not have team chemistry doesn’t mean Toronto will cover the Raptors vs. Pelicans spread on Tuesday.
The model is also well aware of how well New Orleans matches up with Toronto defensively. The player who picked up the scoring slack when Leonard wasn’t on the court last year was Kyle Lowry. Most would probably have expected it to be Siakam, but his usage rate only rose by one percent with Leonard off the court, while his points per 36 minutes only rose by 0.44. Meanwhile, Lowry’s usage rate rose by 3.5 percent without Leonard, while his scoring rose by 3.35 points per 36 minutes.
This is important because Holiday and Lonzo Ball combine to give New Orleans the best on-paper defensive guard combo in the NBA. Holiday was named First-Team All Defensive Team in the 2017-18 season and was Second-Team last year. Those two guards have the length and physicality to give Lowry headaches. In games the Raptors were without Leonard and the opposing team was able to hold Lowry to below 40 percent shooting, Toronto was just 3-5 against-the-spread.