The Raptors have won seven of their last 10 games, moving within two games of .500 at 20-22. If they beat New Orleans on Wednesday and New Jersey loses at Golden State, the Raptors will move ahead of the Nets and into first place.
Toronto is in the midst of a five-game homestand, having won two of the first three, including a 105-84 victory over Charlotte on Monday. The Raptors shot 51.2 percent from the field and are 7-0 when shooting at least 50 percent.
“This year we are starting to be in more games and each game means a little more, especially because we are in a race now,” Raptors guard Morris Peterson said. “But we have that mentality right now where we are trying to take care of what we can control. We’re not trying to watch to see what New Jersey is doing or anybody else. We are just trying to play the guys that are in front of us, play the best game we can.”
Backup point guard Jose Calderon scored a season-high 19 points and dished out 11 assists in his fourth start. Calderon is playing because starter T.J. Ford is hobbled with a sore right ankle. Ford missed three games after his ankle was stepped on against Chicago on Dec. 29. He had played in Toronto’s previous eight games before being forced to sit out.
“He’s just having a lot of pain,” Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. “It could be one game, two games or the rest of the week.”
Calderon, who is averaging 12.5 points and eight assists as a starter, has three double-doubles this season after having two in 2005-06, his rookie year.
Toronto finishes its homestand against Boston on Friday.
New Orleans lost 102-96 to Philadelphia on Tuesday, yet another road loss for the Hornets, who can’t seem to win away from home. New Orleans (16-24) had won four of five overall entering Tuesday’s contest, but lost for the ninth time in its last 10 road games.
“It’s very disappointing that we came out with that lack of energy, effort, intensity, focus and just a little bit of everything,” New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. “I don’t mind the loss; I’m more disappointed in our approach than anything.”
“We came out, and instead of playing our style of basketball, we kind of let them do what they wanted to,” West said. “We didn’t get any stops early, and they just had momentum throughout the whole game.”
The Hornets begin a five-game homestand following Wednesday’s game.
The Raptors beat the Hornets 94-77 on the road on Nov. 28. New Orleans swept the season series in 2005-06, but before that, Toronto had won five in a row over the Hornets.