Welcome home, Toronto Raptors.
It’s been a long, wearisome, successful-at-times road trip for the Raptors. Finishing 3-2 has to be considered a momentous success, especially considering the injuries afflicting the team at times. However, the Raptors were within striking distance of finishing 6-0, which speaks to the level of their play. Toronto let games slip away to the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks because of fatigue, which is understandable, but also means that the same issue will likely plague the Raptors again tonight against the Hornets.
Pascal Siakam notched another 41 minutes played against Dallas, and the fatigue seemed to affect him most. He shot 6-for-24 from the field, settling at times for jumpers. He attempted 10 3s and made only two; the majority of them were short. On the defensive end, Siakam had less burst than is usual to his game. He missed some block outs, gave up initial penetration to guards, and generally committed errors of omission, which are incredibly rare for him. To sum it up, he just seemed tired. Hopefully being at home will help solve that problem, although keeping his minutes in the low-30s would help as well. Siakam plays a taxing level of basketball, running the floor, taking contact on every drive, juking and spinning and moving laterally as much or more than anyone, and putting even more energy into the defensive end. It’s hard to be effective at such energy-consuming plays for 40+ minutes a game, and Siakam seems to be nearing that wall, especially over Toronto’s last two. Hopefully Nurse can limit his minutes slightly more until Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry return from injury to take some of the burden from his shoulders.
Fred VanVleet is also playing big minutes, including 38 against the Mavericks. His ankle seems to be rounding back into form after turning it in Toronto’s season-opener, and the long stretches don’t have him showing fatigue. Still, Nurse will want to keep his minutes down, as well, if not to maximize his value, then at least as a preventative measure.
The Charlotte Hornets don’t have the skill level of Toronto’s recent opponents, but they are still a surprisingly capable team. They’re sitting at 6-7, led by score-first guards Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier. Neither has been efficient on the season, but they both shoot from anywhere on the court, and they can get hot in a hurry. The Hornets have a variety of athletic wings who can defend, including Miles Bridges, rookie sensation PJ Washington, Dwayne Bacon, Malik Monk, and even veteran Nicholas Batum. All shoot 3s and are relatively interchangeable on the both ends. The Hornets have won games by playing slow and hoisting triples. They’re 8th in the league in made 3s per game, and almost everyone on the roster is empowered to shoot from deep. Like all young teams, they can be coaxed into turnovers, which is one of Toronto’s best strengths.
Tipoff: 7:30pm EST | TV: SN1 | Radio: TheFan590
Kyle Lowry (thumb fracture) is out for 2-4 weeks, Serge Ibaka (sprained ankle) is out for 2-4 weeks, and Patrick McCaw (knee) will be re-evaluated at the beginning of December.
PG: Fred VanVleet, Terence Davis II
SG: Norman Powell, Matt Thomas
SF: OG Anunoby, Malcolm Miller, Stanley Johnson
PF: Pascal Siakam, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris Boucher
C: Marc Gasol
With Batum back, Charlotte is healthy. No injuries to report.
PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Devonte Graham, Nicholas Batum, Malik Monk
SF: PJ Washington, Dwayne Bacon, Cody Martin, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF: Miles Bridges, Marvin Williams
C: Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo, Willy Hernangomez
Raptors are -9. That’s a big gap, especially against a Charlotte team that is finally getting healthy.