Raptors tie team mark with 49th win, beat Pelicans 115-91

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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.

Mission accomplished.

DeMar DeRozan scored 23 points, Patrick Patterson had 16 and the Raptors beat the New Orleans Pelicans 115-91 on Saturday night to tie a franchise record with their 49th victory of the season.

“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.”

Powell scored 15 points for Toronto, while Scola added 12, Kyle Lowry and James Johnson 11, and Valanciunas 10.

For New Orleans, Alonzo Gee led with 18 points, and Luke Babbitt had 14 off the bench.

TIP-INS

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.

UP NEXT

Raptors: Host Oklahoma City on Monday.

Pelicans: Host New York on Monday.

Draymond Green not expected to miss any games, Warriors to handle discipline ‘internally’

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Draymond Green is not expected to miss any games for punching teammate Jordan Poole during an altercation during practice, Warriors GM Bob Myers said Thursday.

That’s not to say he is escaping any punishment, it will just be handled internally, Myers said.

Green showed up at Chase Center and apologized to the team and then left, he did not practice with the Warriors, reports Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Draymond apologized to the team this morning, Jordan was there in the room, I was there in room with the team, the coaches, the players and we heard that,” Myers said.

Whatever punishment the Warriors are handing down to Green, it will not include missing games, Myers said.

Coach Steve Kerr added, “I expect [Green] to return on Saturday and get back at it.” That implies a couple of days suspension, likely with a hefty fine.

Kerr was also quick to shoot down the rumors of Poole having an “attitude” around camp as he comes up on a massive contract extension. Stephen Curry echoed that, saying those reports are “absolute BS.”

The Warriors have seen their fair share of Draymond Green incidents over the years, and as a locker room and franchise they know how to move on from it. While this made headlines, the Warriors will shrug it off and move on.

Miami, Milwaukee have their eyes on Jae Crowder

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The Heat and Bucks don’t just have interest in the same player. They’re looking to replace the same player.

Two years ago, P.J. Tucker helped Milwaukee win their first championship in a half-century. Last season, he helped Miami lock up the top seed in the East and make the Conference Finals.

With Tucker in Philadelphia, both the Heat and Bucks are looking to fill the void with a different lockdown enforcer that can stretch the floor.

Jae Crowder and the Suns agreed that he won’t participate in practice as the team looks to accommodate his trade request. In a recent ESPN+ article, Zach Lowe made it clear that both Miami and Milwaukee are interested in pursuing a trade for Crowder.

“The Bucks have internal interest in Crowder as that Tucker replacement after getting into the recent Jerami Grant and Bojan Bogdanovic discussions, sources say. They will search all season for one more piece.

“The Heat have interest in Crowder too, sources say, but finding matching salary is tough until Dewayne Dedmon, Caleb Martin and Victor Oladipo become trade-eligible in the winter. Martin might start, and the Heat are optimistic Oladipo can play a huge role.”

Grant and Bogdanovic were traded to Portland and Detroit, respectively. The Heat may struggle to find a trade that works since Phoenix probably won’t want to take on Duncan Robinson’s contract. Dedmon, Martin and Oladipo will become trade eligible on January 15th.

Crowder has a history with the Heat, as he helped them make the NBA Finals in the bubble. He helped Phoenix make the NBA Finals two seasons ago and then helped them finish with the best record in the NBA last season.

LeBron says Wembanyama is an ‘alien’ and a ‘generational talent’

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There was a time when LeBron James was the “it” kid coming for the NBA — a freakish athlete like nobody in the league had seen. A player the size of Karl Malone with the quickness and skills of an elite point guard.

Now the “it” guy is Victor Wembanyama, the 7’4″ mold-breaking big out of France — and LeBron is impressed.

“Everybody’s been a unicorn over the last few years, well he’s more like an alien,” LeBron said after the Lakers’ preseason loss to the Suns in Las Vegas. “I’ve never seen, no one’s ever seen anyone as tall as he is, but it’s fluid and as graceful as on the floor…

“His ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot step-back jumpers on the post, step-back 3s, catch-and-shoot 3s, block shots. He’s for sure a generational talent. And hopefully he continues to stay healthy, that’s the most important for him personally, and as you could tell he loves the game. He was smiling a lot while playing the game last night. I think it was the two best players in the draft on the floor last night and they both did their thing.”

Wembanyama is projected to be the No.1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, just ahead of point guard Scoot Henerson, who scored 28 points with nine assists of his own leading his G-League Ignite to a win over Wembanyama’s Metropolitans 92. Wembanyama scored 37 points in the game, hit 7-of-11 shots from 3, had five blocks and a few other shots changed because of his length (7’11” wingspan) and the threat of his block.

Wembanyama and Henderson face off again tonight in a second game between the Ignite and Metropolitans 92 just outside Las Vegas in Henderson (9:30 p.m. ET on NBATV).

Wembanyama will play, with his agent telling ESPN there are no plans to shut the No.1 pick down to avoid injury and protect his draft status. “He’ll never agree to that. He wants to compete and get better,” Bouna Ndiaye said.

LeBron looked back on his time as the “it” player and said simply, “thank got there wasn’t social media” at the time. It’s a different world now, but game still recognizes game.

And LeBron recognizes it in Wembanyama.

LeBron tells Adam Silver he wants to own expansion team in Vegas

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The odds are good that Las Vegas will get an NBA expansion team. Eventually.

But when it happens, LeBron James wants to be in the Vegas ownership group — and he made that pitch directly to Adam Silver after the Lakers exhibition game in Sin City against the Suns on Wednesday.

“I know Adam is in Abu Dhabi right now, I believe. But he probably sees every single interview and transcript that comes through from NBA players,” James said, via the Associated Press. “So, I want the team here, Adam. Thank you.”

Silver is in the United Arab Emirates, which is hosting an exhibition game between the Bucks and Hawks this week. But LeBron doesn’t need to worry about Silver seeing this request. He probably already has.

The widely held belief around the league is that the NBA owners will not entertain expansion until a new CBA and a new television/streaming rights deal are locked in (driving up the franchise prices), things that will take a couple of years. Expansion talk may come after that, and maybe there will be two new NBA teams by the end of the decade.

“We are not discussing that at this time,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said of expansion last June. “As I said before, at some point, this league invariably will expand, but it’s not at this moment that we are discussing it.”

If and when expansion happens, Las Vegas, along with Seattle, are the clear frontrunners to land teams. Most importantly, both cities have NBA-ready stadiums and fan bases to support the franchises, and their mayors are on board.

LeBron would be the face of an ownership group. While LeBron himself is a billionaire, Silver had called reports of a $2.5 billion expansion fee per team “low.” And that’s not including all the other start-up costs that come with a team.

But if the NBA is coming to Las Vegas, don’t be shocked if LeBron is involved.