LOS ANGELES (AFP, REUTERS) - Fred VanVleet scored a career high 34 points as the Toronto Raptors got their title defence off on a winning note with a 130-122 overtime win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday (Oct 22).
Pascal Siakam also tallied 34 points and added 18 rebounds before fouling out of the NBA's season-opening contest at Scotiabank Arena which featured the Raptors' championship banner and ring ceremony.
Both teams were missing some big names as the Raptors began life without Kawhi Leonard and the Pelicans lost Anthony Davis in a trade and were missing injured first pick Zion Williamson.
The game was one of two opening night contests, with Leonard's new team Los Angeles Clippers later beating city rivals Los Angeles Lakers 112-102.
Prior to the tip-off against the Pelicans, the Raptors presented their players and coaches with their rings and unveiled the 2019 championship banner in the rafters of the arena.
The massive ring features over 80 diamonds including 74 in and around the Toronto skyline logo which represents the club's 74 wins last season.
The Pelicans decided to remain on the floor during the pre-game festivities instead of loosening up in their locker room.
"It was great to see the ceremony," said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry. "That is what we aspire to be."
Kyle Lowry chipped in 22 points and Serge Ibaka added 13 for Toronto, whose championship pedigree shone through by outscoring the Pelicans 13-5 in overtime. The teams were tied 117-all at the end of regulation.
Brandon Ingram finished with 22 points to lead the Pelicans.
This marks the end of the Leonard period in Toronto as he left as a free agent to join the Clippers.
That means leadership by committee with the load being distributed among Lowry, VanVleet and Siakam, who signed a four-year, US$130 million (S$177 million) contract extension Monday.
The Raptors are also without another key player from their championship team in Danny Green, who departed as a free agent for the Lakers.
Leonard scored 30 points, leading the hosts Clippers at the Staples Centre.
Lou Williams added 21 points and Montrezl Harrell delivered 17 points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Clippers. They helped the Clippers’ bench outscore the Lakers’ reserves 60-19.
Green led the Lakers with 28 points by hitting 10 of his 14 field-goal attempts, including 7 of 9 on three-pointers. Anthony Davis scored 25 points and pulled down 10 boards, while LeBron James had 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
A 19-7 run to open the fourth helped the Clippers clinch the win and hold off the Lakers down the stretch.
The Clippers, sparked by an 11-1 run midway through the second quarter, led 62-54 at the break behind Leonard’s 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Williams added 13 first-half points as the Clippers outscored the Lakers 40-29 in the second quarter.
Davis scored 18 points and James had 14 in the first half. The Clippers converted 56.1 per cent of their shots from the floor compared to 47.4 per cent for the Lakers. Overall, the Clippers outshot the Lakers 51.9 per cent to 43.5 per cent.
In the third, the Clippers increased the lead to 70-56 after a three-pointer by Patrick Patterson at 9:56. But the Lakers answered with a 10-2 surge to pull to within six after a dunk by James less than three minutes later.
A 15-0 run gave the Lakers an 85-82 advantage after a three-pointer by Green, who scored 18 points in the third. JaMychal Green’s trey tied the score heading into the fourth.
The Lakers roared to a 13-2 lead after a bucket by Davis less than four minutes into the game. However, the Clippers rallied, cutting the deficit to 25-22 at the end of the quarter.
Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo missed the contest with a sore calf.
The two clubs will not meet again until Christmas Day.