NEW ORLEANS (AP) After Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey watched his team lose the past two games – only the second time since the beginning of January that has happened – he hoped his players would get back in rhythm Saturday night.
“I thought defensively we came in and did what we wanted to do,” Casey said. “I don’t care who we’re playing, who’s hurt or whatever. I thought we came out with the right focus. That was the most important thing for me.”
Toronto was coming off a three-point loss at Houston a night earlier and was trying to stave off its first three-game losing streak since the first month of the season. The Raptors could have remained unfocused against an opponent that was missing its top five scorers and carried only four active reserves into Saturday’s game.
Instead, Toronto matched the team mark for wins it set a season ago. It got there with an efficient offensive performance and a hearty defensive effort.
DeRozan, Patterson, Luis Scola and Jonas Valanciunas combined to shoot 74 percent from the floor and the Raptors shot 53 percent overall. And until late in the fourth quarter when the game was in hand, New Orleans wasn’t making shots on offense.
“They just get into you,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said. “They do such a great job defensively that they got us all out of whack.”
And with the playoffs looming for Toronto, getting easy wins is important. Only one starter – Normal Powell – played more than 31 minutes.
“We’ve got to understand the second half of the season is where it counts, where it matters, where we understand who we are and what we’ve got to do to win,” DeRozan said. “Because it’s not just for the season, it’s for the postseason going in and understanding we’ve got to be a defensive team and have to get stops.”
Raptors: Have won 21 road games this season, one less than their franchise record set in 2013-14 and matched in 2014-15. … Toronto entered 29th in the league in assists, averaging just 18 per game. It finished with 24 Saturday night, including assists on all nine of its made baskets in the second quarter.
Pelicans: Turned the ball over just six times, two off of a season low. … New Orleans’ reserves scored 39 points, just two off of its season average despite playing with just four reserves.
LOWRY CONTINUES SLUMP
Lowry, the team’s second-leading scorer, has hit a bit of slow stretch. In the past three games he has played, Lowry is shooting just 28 percent. Against New Orleans, he went just 3 of 13 and finished with 11 points, just three more than his season low.
PELICANS SIGN FRAZIER
The Pelicans signed guard Tim Frazier through the April 13 season finale, a move that helps buoy an increasingly injury-plagued roster. Including Frazier, New Orleans played with nine players on the active roster against Toronto on Saturday. Frazier has scored in double figures in his first six games with the Pelicans, including a career-best 18 points on March 24 against Indiana.
Raptors: Host Oklahoma City on Monday.
Pelicans: Host New York on Monday.