Raptors-Hornets Preview

The Toronto Raptors could hardly even grasp the ball while losing a big lead and ultimately a winning streak in their previous game. The storyline was the same in Charlotte's last contest, though a bit more surprising.

The clubs will try to clean up their play when the visiting Raptors seek a third straight victory over the Hornets on Thursday night.

Toronto (16-10) had won four consecutive games heading into the opener of a three-game trip at Indiana on Monday and appeared well on its way to matching a season high with a fifth straight victory.

Things unraveled quickly for the Raptors, who coughed up a 26-5 first-quarter lead when the Pacers rolled through a massive 39-4 run en route to an easy 106-90 victory.

Toronto, still playing without regular starters DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas, turned the ball over 13 times in the first half, leading to 17 Indiana points. Overall, the Pacers converted 21 Raptors miscues into 22 points.

The loss also ended the Raptors' four-game road winning streak and dropped them to 8-6 away from home.

"You can't develop bad habits from it," coach Dwane Casey said. "You have to flush it and go to the next game. The most important play is the next play."

Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan each finished with 20 points, but the rest of the team shot just 31.9 percent. DeRozan has averaged 23.8 points in his last five games against the Hornets, while Lowry has averaged 25.0 in his last three.

A two-day break was a welcome sight for Toronto, which played three games in four days to close a stretch of eight in 13. The Hornets, meanwhile, are trying to bounce back from their own clunker in the closer of their second back-to-back set in a week.

Charlotte (14-10) is turning the ball over a league-low 12.6 times per game but committed seven in the first quarter alone during Wednesday's 113-98 loss at Orlando.

The Hornets finished with 16 giveaways that led to 25 Magic points and lost their second straight following four consecutive wins.

"The whole tone for the game was set by turnovers in the first quarter," coach Steve Clifford said. "That led to wide open shots and that's how some of their guys got going. We never got our defense where it was good enough to make a real run in the game."

Orlando shot 55.8 percent - a season high for a Charlotte opponent - and made 14 of 24 from 3-point range.

The Hornets made 45.6 percent of their shots, but the starting five finished 16 of 40. Charlotte's top two scorers, Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum, combined for 18 points on 6-of-19 shooting.

The Hornets have played the last seven games without center Al Jefferson due to a calf strain, and although he's now healthy, the 12-year veteran will miss the next five while serving a suspension for violating the NBA's drug policy. He will be eligible to return when Charlotte hosts Memphis on Dec. 26.

Charlotte is 2-1 in the second of back-to-backs, though the lone loss came with Saturday's 98-93 defeat against Boston. The Hornets are 10-4 at Time Warner Cable Arena, but they have split their last six games there.

Toronto has won the last two meetings in this series, but the Hornets took the previous six. The Raptors' 92-74 win April 8 ended an eight-game skid in Charlotte.

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