Raptors-Hornets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 27, 2012
The Toronto Raptors' longest winning streak in nearly three years is over. The New Orleans Hornets are hoping they've started a run of their own. Toronto will try to rebound from its first loss in six games Friday night in New Orleans, where the Western Conference-worst Hornets look to build off their first victory in three-plus weeks. The Raptors (9-20) were hoping to arrive in New Orleans on a run of six straight wins, but instead, they're in bounce-back mode after getting routed 100-80 at San Antonio on Wednesday. No starter scored in double figures for Toronto, which surrendered its highest point total in eight games and had its longest win streak since January 2010 come to an end. "It's one game against a really good team," said point guard Jose Calderon, who has started the last seven games in place of Kyle Lowry (triceps). "We lost, so now we've got two big (road games) coming up and that's what we've got to be thinking right now." The Raptors end this trip in Orlando on Saturday and are 2-15 in road games, including losses in all 10 against West opponents by an average of 16.1 points. However, they've won seven of 10 in New Orleans, including a 95-84 victory Feb. 29, and the Hornets (6-22) have lost five in a row at home. New Orleans has averaged 84.3 points during that skid dating to a 102-81 win over Milwaukee on Dec. 3. That game marked the Hornets' only victory this month until Wednesday, when they avoided a franchise record-tying 12th consecutive defeat overall with a 97-94 win in Orlando. They had lost their previous two games by a total of 11 points. "We've been scrapping, but it's just one game," said center Robin Lopez, who has back-to-back 20-point games for the first time in his career after finishing with a season-best 29 versus the Magic. "We want to string together a few." The Hornets, though, haven't won two straight since Nov. 2-3, and they have one victory in their last 10 at home. "My goal is not to win one game and then let up," coach Monty Williams said. "My mindset is always to win every game we play. I don't care who it is in our lineup, young or whoever the guy is, we're going to try to win games." Hornets rookie guard Austin Rivers should make a 10th consecutive start Friday alongside Greivis Vasquez, who had a career-high 27 points Wednesday, but Eric Gordon could make his season debut Saturday at Charlotte following knee surgery. Rivers has averaged 5.3 points on 8-of-31 shooting over the past four games. Top overall pick Anthony Davis, who returned nine games ago after missing 11 with an ankle injury, is averaging 14.2 points and 10.4 rebounds while starting each of the last five contests. Ed Davis and Amir Johnson will have to contend with Davis and Lopez as Raptors rookie center Jonas Valanciunas is expected to be out four to six weeks with a broken ring finger suffered last Friday. Toronto was outrebounded by nine Wednesday without the 20-year-old Lithuanian. Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani will likely miss an eighth consecutive game with a ligament tear in his right elbow, but there's a chance Lowry will return.
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