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.
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 per cent 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.