Charlotte vs. Toronto, January 11th: Beware flying mouthpieces
The Toronto Raptors have been dealing with a number of injuries, but they've been able to compensate with solid defense. That may not bode well for the low-scoring Charlotte Bobcats.
Toronto goes for its 10th victory in 13 games Friday night when it faces a Bobcats team looking for a third straight road win.
Injuries to Andrea Bargnani, Linas Kleiza, Aaron Gray and Jonas Valanciunas have left the Raptors (13-22) extremely short-handed down low. It's also uncertain if rookie guard Terrence Ross will be able to play in this game after missing a 90-72 victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday.
"We know we have some people down -- we just have to pick up the slack," said forward Amir Johnson, who has started the last two games at center in place of Gray. " ... This is not the time to take a break now. We gotta pick it up and dig ourselves out of the hole we dug."
Having a healthy Landry Fields could help. Making his first start since Nov. 7 -- and playing for the sixth time since coming back from wrist surgery -- Fields set season highs with 10 points and 11 rebounds Wednesday.
He also had three of the Raptors' nine steals as the team matched its season best in points allowed and avoided a third straight loss.
"(Fields) did exactly what we needed," coach Dwane Casey said. "He gave us energy and he was running the floor."
Casey's team has given up an average of 87.3 points in the wins during its 9-3 surge. None of those nine opponents reached the 100-point mark.
Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap has been getting great energy and production off his bench, which is among the best in the NBA with 40.9 points a contest. However, he may think about switching up his starting five after Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, Tyrus Thomas, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffrey Taylor were outscored 67-35 by Charlotte's reserves in a 112-102 loss to Utah on Wednesday.
"I like the lineup that we had starting out against Detroit (in a 108-101 overtime win Sunday) and I tried to stay with that tonight," said Dunlap, whose starters are 29th in the league with 55.4 points per game.
The Bobcats (9-25) also have plenty of issues to fix at the other end, as they've allowed 100 or more points in 20 of 24 games since a 98-97 home win over Toronto on Nov. 21.
"We have to pick up our defense," forward Gerald Henderson said Wednesday following the team's 12th consecutive home defeat. "We scored enough, but we gave up too many points to win. It's tough to try to come back on a team like that (down by 19 at halftime) when you're down early by so much."
The Bobcats might be energized by hitting the road for three straight, as their last two wins came away from home. Charlotte last won three in a row on the road during a four-game run Jan. 18-28, 2011.
The Bobcats have won 10 of 13 against the Raptors and had posted three straight victories at Toronto -- and six in a row in the series -- before a 92-87 loss in their last visit April 3.
Ryan Wolstat @WolstatSun
Not exactly the dream team of refs tonight. David Jones, he of the mouthpiece incident. Violet Palmer and Kevin Fehr.