Game Preview: Raptors vs. Pelicans
The Toronto Raptors look to get back on track after a disappointing 114-113 loss to the Orlando Magic on Sunday. The Pelicans are in Toronto after dropping a 107-94 loss to the Washington Wizards.
Tip-off: 7:00 P.M. ET
Broadcast Info: TSN1, TSN4 / SN590
DeRozan back in the lineup
DeMar DeRozan returned to the Raptors lineup in Sunday’s loss to the Orlando Magic after missing the previous three games with a sprained ankle. DeRozan turned his ankle after coming down awkwardly from a jumper against the San Antonio Spurs on Jan. 24.
Despite the three-game layoff, DeRozan returned to the starting lineup and logged 36 minutes against the Magic. After the loss, he was asked how he felt in his first game back.
“It felt good,” DeRozan said. “The wind was still there. It just felt a little sore. We’ll see how it feels [Monday] and go from there with it.”
DeRozan scored 22 points on 6-for-18 shooting, including 10-for-11 from the free throw line against the Magic while adding seven rebounds and six assists.
Searching for defensive focus
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has been increasingly direct in his comments regarding the team’s defensive focus in recent weeks. After Sunday’s loss against the Orlando Magic, a game where the Raptors allowed 113 points, Casey made it clear that he is looking for a lineup that wants to defend.
“We have to find five men that are going to go out there and defend,” he said. “You can go right down the roster and everybody had a defensive mistake. It’s accountability. We’re bringing guys off the bench and they’re making mistakes, it’s everybody and that is what I told the team. Everybody is involved, the whole group in the room, we’re all accountable for this.”
Patrick Patterson said that he didn’t know the answer to why the team has struggled to find defensive consistency this season — but that if he did, he’d tell the coaching staff so they could fix it. He was adamant, however, that the team can and will figure out their defensive woes.
“It just comes down to the will,” Patterson said. “We can do it. We've done it before, we've shown we can do it for long periods of time, but it just comes down to the will and the want to actually do it and do it on a consistent basis. Not every other game, not once in a blue moon, but every single day, every single time we step out on that court. We can do it. It's just each and every individual on this team wanting to do it and putting it into action.”
Locker room accountability
As the team works its way through this slump, Dwane Casey, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have all discussed the importance of everyone keeping each other in check.
“It starts with us,” DeRozan said of himself and Lowry. “We’ve got to establish that early by being more vocal and doing it. We’ve got to be the first to do it and let it trickle down.”
Lowry pointed to the camaraderie of a close-knit locker room as a positive when dealing with adversity throughout an 82-game season. With everyone understanding each other’s intentions, calling out mistakes and giving instruction becomes easier.
“It’s all just about talking and communicating,” Lowry said. “We have a great team and a great vibe in here. We just have to get a little bit better communication going within our locker room and between each other and just push each other to be better.”
While communication in the locker room is important, it is crucial that it crosses over onto the court as well.
“I think it’s just in general - on the floor, in the locker room, all over,” Lowry said. “We are good off the court. Off the court we have a great team and great chemistry. On the court we have to be able to get on each other a little more. We don’t have to but it’s OK for us to do that. We have a good enough team and guys will understand if someone says something it’s out of the good of their heart and they’re just trying to make the team better.”