Gameday: Hornets @ Raptors, Jan. 14

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A game at “home” only this time there won’t be any Floridians to boo them.

Since the Raptors last home game a lot has happened. Pascal Siakam has completely turned his season around, James Harden is a Brooklyn Net, and they’re no longer allowing fans in to watch the Raptors “home” games – which is probably a good thing. As fun as it is to hear anecdotes about Fred VanVleet yelling at people to shut up and put on their masks, I think the organization has made a rock-solid decision.

As for the Charlotte Hornets, their team makes rock-solid decision after rock-solid decision. I’ve watched a lot of them this year. At this point in the season I’ve seen every team except the Jazz and the Wizards and let me tell you, if the Hornets aren’t the most fun, they’re close. They pass the hell out of the ball. Gordon Hayward, Devonte’ Graham, and PJ Washington are all plus-playmakers at their positions, and LaMelo Ball is transcendent. If you think Ball has limitations elsewhere that’s fine, but his passing is otherworldly. Mix in Terry Rozier who’s teeing off from downtown for the second year in a row, Bismack Biyombo doing his best impression of an anchor in the middle, and you’ve got a super exciting team. These Hornets and their ball-movement have a tendency to, erm, swarm.

If preseason is meaningful then the Raptors should handle the Hornets in back-to-back games once again. But, preseason isn’t really meaningful and the Hornets have not only profiled as an extremely fun team, but a team that will probably punch it’s ticket to at least the play-in. If the Raptors have their hearts set on scrambling on defense, there are few teams better prepared to punish them. Virtually every Hornet who touches the court (outside of Biyombo, sorry Bismack) is capable of putting the ball on the floor to get to the rim, making the right read, or hitting an open jump-shot. That has potential to be very challenging for the Raptors defense.

The good news? The Hornets are really small, and Biyombo is the type of center that small teams can scheme out of the danger zone. I could be wrong, but this seems like a prime opportunity to slip one of Norman Powell or Chris Boucher into the starting lineup. Personally, I’m expecting Powell, because I’m expecting Nurse to want to salvage at least some bench minutes, and OG Anunoby can hang with Biyombo. If Nurse just wants to reward the players with the best form, Boucher is a lock because he’s been magnificent. We’ll see.

Offensively, the Raptors should be able to run a lot of post-action through Siakam once again. Everybody has been eating when the Raptors work their offense through him lately, and while PJ Washington is a plus defender now (and certainly projects as a major plus in the future) I don’t think he’s imposing enough to move the Raptors away from something that’s been working. Lowry and VanVleet are dangerous off-ball this way, and it lowers their work-load and minutes. Of course we’ll see our fair share of pick n’ roll and horns, but let’s cross our fingers for some post-play.

Even though the Hornets are significantly better than last year, they’re on a back-to-back.  This is still a soft part of the Raptors schedule. If they don’t start winning some of these games against mid-level teams they might be shocked at how fast the standings rise around them.

Game Info

Tipoff: 7:30pm EST | TV: TSN | Radio: TSN1050

Raptors Lineups

Patrick McCaw is out – this could change closer to tipoff, but there’s not much news around him currently.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Malachi Flynn

SG: Fred VanVleet, Terence Davis, Matt Thomas, Jalen Harris

SF: Norman Powell, Stanley Johnson, DeAndre Bembry, Paul Watson

PF: Pascal Siakam, Yuta Watanabe

C: OG Anunoby, Chris Boucher, Aron Baynes, Alex Len

Hornets Lineups

Grant Riller (left knee) is out. Gordon Hayward (left hip) is a game-time decision. Cody Zeller (hand) is out.

PG: Devonte’ Graham, LaMelo Ball, Nate Darling

SG: Terry Rozier, Caleb Martin, Malik Monk

SF: Gordon Hayward, Cody Martin

PF: PJ Washington, Miles Bridges, Jalen McDaniels

C: Bismack Biyombo, Vernon Carey Jr., Nick Richards

 

Have a blessed day.

 

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