Toronto (13-27) at New Orleans (25-16)

By NOEY KUPCHAN, STATS Writer Monday, Jan 17, 2011 Tipoff: 3:00 pm EST Mon Jan 17, 2011

With the New Orleans Hornets playing some of their best basketball of the season, their biggest danger Monday may be overlooking the stumbling Toronto Raptors.

The Hornets will try for a fifth straight win when they host the Raptors in a matinee matchup.

New Orleans (25-16), which ranks second in the NBA in scoring defense with 92.2 points allowed per game, came through with another impressive defensive effort in its 88-81 win in Charlotte on Saturday night.

While the Bobcats’ offense wasn’t a huge challenge, shooting 40.6 percent, getting to the game was as the Hornets had to deal with a sick pilot following a 110-105 overtime win in Houston on Friday night.

“We made no mention of it in the pregame, but we got in (Saturday morning) around 6 o’clock,” coach Monty Williams said. “To be able to muster the kind of energy and focus to win against a good team like that says a lot about leadership. But it also says a lot about how much our guys love to play basketball.”

The Hornets, who committed a season low-tying eight turnovers, have held opponents to 41.1 percent shooting from the floor and 90.5 points per game during their longest winning streak since starting the season 8-0.

One night after scoring 29 points versus the Rockets, David West(notes) recorded 26. He has averaged 24.3 points - 8.0 more than his career mark - in his last six games against the Raptors.

Chris Paul(notes) scored 19 points Saturday and is averaging 22.0 and 17.0 assists in his last two home meetings with Toronto, but the Hornets have lost both of those games.

New Orleans dropped both of last season’s meetings with the Raptors and has lost five of eight overall in the series, but Chris Bosh(notes) averaged 27.0 points in Toronto’s victories in that stretch before leaving for Miami last summer.

The Raptors (13-27) have struggled without Bosh, falling to 5-15 on the road with a 98-95 loss to Washington on Saturday night.

Toronto, 2-7 in its last nine overall, started its five-game road trip without Leandro Barbosa(notes), who did not travel with the team after straining his right hamstring in Friday night’s loss to Detroit. Barbosa was averaging 20.3 points in his last four games prior to getting hurt.

The Raptors - also missing Jerryd Bayless(notes), Sonny Weems(notes), Peja Stojakovic(notes) and Reggie Evans(notes) - could be in for another difficult game after playing with only eight healthy bodies Saturday.

“We knew it was only going to be, like, seven or eight players we had out there,” said Jose Calderon(notes), who had 21 points, 15 assists, and a career high-tying nine rebounds. “We knew we’d have to play a lot of minutes. We played good for a long time. Maybe at the end the legs didn’t respond as well as we needed to.”

Andrea Bargnani(notes), leading the team with 22.0 points per game, continued his recent scoring surge with 25 on Saturday. He is averaging 28.0 points during his last four games.

But while New Orleans ranks among the best defensive teams in the league, the Raptors come in as one of the worst - especially on the road, where they are averaging 110.0 points allowed in their last five contests, with opponents shooting 51.0 percent in that stretch.

Hornets guard Marco Belinelli(notes) is questionable to face the Raptors, who traded him to New Orleans for Julian Wright(notes) over the summer, after missing the last two games with an ankle injury.

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Monday, Jan 17