Pre-Game

Gameday: Hornets @ Raptors, Mar. 24

As the Raptors overall style shifts and changes, they’ve received mediocre feedback in the win-loss category. Elite 3-point shooting and passing have accompanied Marc Gasol’s presence, but an 11-6 record (most notably 7-6 in their last 13) is less dominant than what we would like. The truth is that the postseason awaits this team, as does the real conversation about their place in the league’s hierarchy. The Raptors have a couple games to get through before we all collectively lose our minds or flex our muscles. The Hornets come to town to move us one game closer to the playoffs.

Kemba Walker is the first thing that comes to mind when you’re talking Hornets, and for good reason. The Hornets are fresh off of huge comeback win against the Celtics on Saturday, led by Walker’s 36-points, 11-rebounds, and 9-assists. If the Raptors are going to struggle, Walker should be chief among the reasons why. With Kyle Lowry questionable for tonight’s game, Walker’s primary defender will be Fred VanVleet, who is well equipped to deal with Walker’s lightning-quick and attack oriented offense. Expect Serge Ibaka to start, as a frontcourt of Ibaka and Pascal Siakam will be uniquely suited to help VanVleet deal with Walker.

“We should have probably trapped him (Walker) a little bit more like every other team does in the league. He torches us everytime, it’s no surprise.” – Kyrie Irving, after the Celtics loss on Saturday

On offense I’d expect a concerted effort to funnel shots toward Ibaka on the pop and short-roll. The Hornets don’t have anyone on the roster who can adequately push Ibaka away from the rim if he so chooses, and they don’t possess good enough wing defenders that they can have their big man follow Ibaka out of the paint to contest his jumpers.

There’s no news regarding Kawhi Leonard’s availability, so that might mean that he’ll dress for his third game in five days, which is meaningful. If he does, expect a rough night for Nicolas Batum. Batum is a clever defender, but he lacks the physicality (most players do) to hang with Leonard.

There should be a sense of urgency on the Hornets end, as they cling onto a chance at the playoffs. With that being said, hustle and effort should be less of a factor considering they’re playing an afternoon game on a back-to-back.

The Hornets aren’t a particularly good team. They have a puncher’s chance in that they likely won’t turn the ball over a lot, denying the Raptors a chance to supercharge their bench and a couple starters (Siakam, Danny Green) in transition, and they can rely on absurd shot-making from Walker. The Raptors have the edge in most metrics here, as well as the eye test and reputation. Hopefully they make quick work of a middling team that doesn’t score or defend the ball at a high-level, and everyone gets to enjoy their Sunday.

Cold-ish Take

Jeremy Lin will find himself in this game (no predictions beyond that) and work his way into a double-digit scoring night. I expect he’ll be able to navigate the pick n’ roll against this specific Hornets defense. Oh yes, Norman Powell will dunk twice in this game, just a hunch.

Game Info

TV: TSN | Radio: TSN1050 | Tipoff: 6PM EST

Raptors Updates

Kyle Lowry (right ankle sprain) is questionable for tonight’s game.

PG: Fred VanVleet, Jeremy Lin

SG: Danny Green, Norman Powell

SF: Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby, Patrick McCaw

PF: Pascal Siakam

C: Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol

Hornets Updates

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Concussion) is doubtful, Cody Zeller (knee) is doubtful.

PG: Kemba Walker, Tony Parker, Shelvin Mack

SG: Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb, Malik Monk

SF: Miles Bridges

PF: Marvin Williams

C: Bismack Biyombo, Willy Hernangomez, Frank Kaminsky

I’ll be at this game, so the reaction podcast will go up about an hour later than usual.

Have a blessed day.

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