VanVleet opens season with a ring and a career high 34 points

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TORONTO, ON – OCTOBER 22: Fred Van Vleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors shoots the ball as Nickeil Alexander-Walker #0 of the New Orleans Pelicans defends during the second half of an NBA game at Scotiabank Arena on October 22, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

TORONTO (AP) — Fred VanVleet scored a career-high 34 points, Pascal Siakam fouled out with 34 points and 18 rebounds, and the defending champion Toronto Raptors beat the New Orleans Pelicans 130-122 in overtime on Tuesday night in the NBA’s season-opening game.

VanVleet made 12 of 18 shots from the field. The Rockford native was 5-7 from deep and 5-6 at the free throw line. Pascal Siakam also added 34 points for the Raptors plus 18 rebounds and five assists before fouling out.

Kyle 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.

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.

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, Nicolo Melli had 14 and Holiday added 13.

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 six-game triumph over Golden State last June.

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.

Still, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said losing a star player doesn’t always hurt a team’s fortunes.

“Bryce Harper is gone, too, but where are the Nationals?” Gentry asked rhetorically aboutWashington’s World Series baseball team. “I wouldn’t count these guys out just yet.”

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