Despite the absence of Kyle Lowry, sometimes DeMarre Carroll, and the potential risks and traps of mostly unimportant (in the big picture) games here late in the season, the Toronto Raptors are on the brink of accomplishing something they haven’t yet this year: Winning seven games in a row.
As the very hungry, very desperate Charlotte Hornets visit Wednesday, the Raptors can secure their seventh consecutive victory, a pretty remarkable streak given the circumstances of late. Shout out to that improved defense, the team’s two deadline acquisitions, and a lot of players stepping beyond their roles.
Those things can be tenuous, though, so the Raptors need to be sure they don’t get happy on the farm or fat and sassy or any other saying. They’ve won six straight with five coming against teams who really need the wins, and four of their next five fit that criteria, too. The Raptors saw Monday what can happen if they take their foot off the gas a little, and the message will be clear against Kemba Walker and company: No defensive slippage can or will be tolerated.
The game tips off at 7:30 on Sportsnet One and TSN 1050. You can check out the full game preview here.
DeMarre Carroll participated in shootaround and word then was that he was going to try to play tonight. That has all the makings of a game-time decision, though head coach Dwane Casey has been more forthcoming with day-to-day matters of late. Here’s an important shootaround note regarding the Tucker/Carroll question:
Casey was very complimentary of what Tucker's done with the first unit but says team has a rule: players can't lose their job to injury
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 29, 2017
That’s not a bad policy to have, but in this case, it’s worth mentioning that performance is at play as well. I understand, and am in favor of, Carroll continuing to start when healthy, but the leash has grown shorter over the past few weeks. Check back for an update closer to tip off.
PG: Cory Joseph, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: (DeMarre Carroll), P.J. Tucker
PF: Serge Ibaka, Patrick Patterson
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
TBD: DeMarre Carroll
ASSIGNED: Bruno Caboclo, Pascal Siakam
OUT: Kyle Lowry
On Tuesday, the Hornets had Ramon Sessions and Johnny O’Bryant inactive, while Miles Plumlee was active. Sessions is apparently cleared to play following knee surgery, but Briante Weber has firmly run with his backup point guard job. Plumlee is ready to go following a calf injury, too, but hasn’t found his way back into the rotation. O’Bryant is dealing with a sprained ankle. The three absences highlight that the Hornets haven’t been particularly lucky on the injury front, but that they’ve persevered more than their record shows – the losses of Sessions and Plumlee would have looked larger earlier in the year, but these guys just keep chugging along.
(And yes, their record is bad. But they have the No. 5 point differential in the Eastern Conference and seven of their nine top lineups have been positives. They’re good, or at least better than their record and their playoff standing would suggest. Don’t sleep on this being a tough game. The Hornets are desperate.)
PG: Kemba Walker, (Ramon Sessions), Briante Weber, Brian Roberts
SG: Nicolas Batum, Marco Belinelli
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeremy Lamb, Treveon Graham
PF: Marvin Williams, Christian Wood
C: Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, (Miles Plumlee), (Johnny O’Bryant)
TBA: Ramon Sessions, Miles Plumlee, Johnny O’Bryant
- Bruno Caboclo and Pascal Siakam were recalled from Raptors 905 after two days of practice, and they’ll likely be sent right back down for the 905 game tomorrow night at Hershey Centre (the team’s home finale). Fred VanVleet joined them for practice Tuesday but was recalled immediately after. It doesn’t appear he’s in the plans for the 905, at least until Kyle Lowry’s return is imminent.
- Speaking of the 905, in Kevin Arnovitz’s annual roundup of potential coaches to watch, Jerry Stackhouse appears to be firmly on the NBA’s radar. Even with only one year of NBA experience, people are taking notice of the job Stackhouse has done with the first-place 905. A title run probably wouldn’t change that evaluation, but it might get even more eyesballs on Stack’s early success story.
- Not on that list: Nick Nurse. He and Rex Kalamian have both been considered candidates to be poached from the Raptors’ bench in the past, and Toronto’s done a good job trying to retain high-end talent (losing Andy Greer, while painful, allowed both coaches to take a jump up the assistant ladder).
- Over at The Athletic, my latest email exchange with Eric Koreen focuses in on the Raptors’ potential playoff rotation. And the greatness of Bryan Adams. Raptors Republic readers can get 20 percent off the subscription price by using this referral link.
- Doubling back to teams the Raptors have beaten on this streak, it’s nice to see Dwyane Wade is having fun despite the season-ending injury. He is engaged in a #RaiseIt challenge. It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes a bigger thing. If so, BioSteel Centre could be a pretty nice setup for some trickery.