The Toronto Raptors haven’t been able to move past their recent struggles despite DeMar DeRozan’s return, though they could catch a break in the finale of a disappointing homestand.
With Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday likely to be game-time decisions for New Orleans, the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors try to avoid their seventh loss in nine games Sunday by winning a seventh straight against the visiting Pelicans.
Toronto (26-13) owned the best record in the Eastern Conference on Dec. 28 following an 8-1 stretch. Since then, the club hasn’t been able to win consecutive games thanks in part to its inconsistent play defensively.
The Raptors have given up 115.6 points per game – 16.5 more than they allowed through 28 games – over their last seven losses after letting Atlanta shoot 60.9 percent in Friday’s 110-89 defeat.
They’ve surrendered an average of 90.0 points in their two wins on this six-game stay, though one of those victories came against Philadelphia.
”We just started to get a little overconfident,” reserve forward James Johnson said.
DeRozan, the team’s second-leading scorer, has scored a combined 45 on 20-of-32 shooting in two games since missing 21 due to a torn tendon in his groin. His 25 points couldn’t keep Toronto from putting up a season-low total against the Hawks.
DeRozan finished with 31 points in the most recent meeting with New Orleans in a 107-100 road victory March 19.
Kyle Lowry has averaged 13.0 points on 35.0 percent shooting in his last three games. However, he totaled 42 points, 17 assists and 15 rebounds to help the Raptors take both meetings last season.
Holiday missed both and Davis sat out one due to an illness, and those two could be missing again after being sidelined in Friday’s 96-81 loss at Philadelphia.
Alexis Ajinca had 16 points and 14 rebounds but Tyreke Evans was held to eight points and had seven turnovers for New Orleans, which fell to 7-15 on the road.
After averaging 103.7 points and shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range in winning two of their previous three games, the Pelicans (19-20) shot 38.7 percent overall and missed 13 of 17 attempts from beyond the arc Friday.
Davis sat out with a sprained left toe suffered late in Wednesday’s win at Detroit. Holiday missed a second straight game with right ankle inflammation.
"I still think the guys who are on the floor know how we are supposed to play," coach Monty Williams said after the Pelicans dropped to 0-10 when registering 18 assists or fewer. "Defend, play hard and share the ball. When we do it, we whip teams. When we don’t, we look like we did (Friday)."
Perhaps Evans, who had scored 19.4 per game over his previous nine, can bounce back in this one. He’s averaging 23.3 in his last four versus Toronto.
The Pelicans have been playing better defensively of late, allowing 95.1 points per game and a 29.7 3-point percentage in their last seven. They haven’t forced more than 12 turnovers in any of their last six games, but the Raptors have committed 17-plus giveaways five times in their past six.
New Orleans has lost its last four trips to Toronto.