After a tough five-game road trip, Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey said it's only natural for his players to be looking forward to some time off over the All-Star break.
That doesn't mean he'll accept anything less than their best effort until then.
Atlantic Division-leading Toronto plays the first of two home games before the break Monday night while seeking a fifth straight victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Raptors (26-24) finished their trip 2-3 after falling 118-105 to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. DeMar DeRozan, who averaged 26.4 points on the trip and will play in the All-Star game, scored 36 and added eight assists. Kyle Lowry chipped in 19 points.
Casey refused to blame fatigue for Toronto's apparent lack of aggressiveness and inability to be physical in the paint.
"Everybody is tired right now," Casey said. "Everybody is preparing for the (All-Star) break, but it's not here yet. We have business to take care of. I just told the guys, 'We have to go back and take care of home.'"
The Raptors have won eight of 10 at Air Canada Centre and also will host Atlanta on Wednesday prior to the break. Casey is hoping they can bounce back and head into the hiatus with some momentum, especially since his improved team has aspirations of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08.
"We're a developing young team and we're getting better," Casey said. "We're doing some good things, but some things we've got to learn to do better. We're happy where we are, but we're not satisfied."
Toronto has won six of the last seven meetings with New Orleans, which earned its only victory in that stretch on Jan. 17, 2011.
Anthony Davis was held to two points on 1-of-6 shooting in the most recent matchup exactly a year ago, while Lowry finished with 14 points and 10 assists in the Raptors' 102-89 home victory.
The Pelicans (22-28) began a three-game trip with a 93-81 loss to Brooklyn on Sunday after winning six of their previous eight. Davis, averaging 25.7 points and shooting 61.2 percent over his last three, finished with 24 and nine rebounds.
New Orleans was forced to the road for its final games before the break due to preparations for All-Star weekend being held in its home arena.
"We just didn't play (well) tonight," Davis said. "We know it. Coaches know it. Everybody knows it."
The Pelicans were held to a season-low 28 points in the first half and trailed by as many as 27 before pulling within seven in the final quarter. They shot 36.1 percent for the game and hit only 15 of 27 free throws.
Tyreke Evans, who had been dealing with a rib injury recently, didn't play because of what coach Monty Williams said was an internal team issue and did not elaborate. His status for this contest is unclear.
"First four or five possessions we just didn't run our offense with any kind of zeal the way that we've been running it at home," Williams said.
New Orleans has lost its last three visits to Toronto.
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