The New Orleans Pelicans have responded to a six-game losing streak with two consecutive home wins and Monday night they will learn just how far they have come back when they visit the surging Toronto Raptors.
While the Pelicans (6-6) were defeating the Phoenix Suns 119-99 Saturday, the Raptors (12-1) won their sixth in a row, 128-112 over the New York Knicks and are undefeated in seven home games this season.
The Pelicans improved to 5-1 at home after the win over the Suns but are 1-5 on the road. After playing Monday in Toronto, they will visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday. It made the win against Phoenix important for the team's frame of mind.
"It was real big for us," said Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, who had 26 points, 13 rebounds and six assists Saturday. "You know you can't get too far down in the West or it's going to be trouble trying to get back up in the standings, so, for us to come back home and take care of home court, it was big time for us. It gives us a little confidence going into two tough games. You know (the Raptors) are the No. 1 team in the East right so it's going to be another big road trip for us. We've got to come out with both of them."
The Raptors have swept the season series against the Pelicans over the past three seasons and have won 12 of the past 14 meetings overall against them.
Elfrid Payton (sprained right ankle) and Nikola Mirotic (sprained right ankle) are listed by the Pelicans as questionable for Monday.
The Raptors had a sluggish start Saturday after going undefeated on a four-game Western swing, but they were able to handle the Knicks led by Pascal Siakam's career-best 23 points, 14 in the third quarter.
"I think we calmed down a little bit," Siakam said. "We missed a couple shots early, a couple turnovers here and there and we just had to settle into the game. We don't get all rattled. We just calm down and continue to play our game and it's been working for us."
The decisiveness of the win enabled Raptors coach Nick Nurse to rest his starting five -- Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Siakam, Serge Ibaka and Danny Green -- for the entire fourth quarter.
"I was kind of expecting a little bit of a West Coast grog, to be honest with you.," Nurse said. "It is common. We see it a lot when we come back in the first game. I just wasn't going to make a big deal about it. It takes a little while to get your focus and your legs back underneath you. But I thought we were playing hard, and that is the main thing. We were playing a little careless on offense, we weren't rebounding the ball."
With the bench getting plenty of action, the Raptors had seven double-digit scorers Saturday: Siakam (23), Jonas Valanciunas (19), OG Anunoby (16), Leonard (12), Ibaka (12), Delon Wright (12) and Lowry (10).
The Pelicans have been pleased with their defense over the past two games, holding their opponents under 100 points in each of their past two games.
They were able to hold the Suns prolific guard Devin Booker to 12 points. Booker entered the game averaging 26.5 points per game.
"I thought we played well, moved the basketball, and did a lot of good things," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "Jrue (Holliday) was sensational on Booker and you are not going to guard him any better than that. If you think about the fact that he was 4-for-11 and one of them was the 50-foot 3-point shot and the other ones he had problems getting them off on Jrue. I thought Jrue did as good of a job as you are ever going to do guarding that kid. I thought we did a good job getting the ball inside to Julius (Randle) and AD (Anthony Davis)."
In two games against Toronto last season, Davis averaged 18.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.5 steals and Holiday averaged 26 points, 4.5 rebounds and eight assists. In two games against New Orleans last season, Lowry averaged 20 points, 8.5 rebounds and eight assists and Valanciunas averaged 12 points and 9.5 rebounds.
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