Coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Hawks at the hands of first-ballot Raptor killer hall-of-famer Tony Snell, the Raptors now turn their focus to the Charlotte Hornets. Still without Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn, Patrick McCaw, and OG Anunoby, the Raptors are hoping to avoid a repeat of their last few performances. Raptors fans everywhere should be counting themselves lucky that Charlotte no longer employs the services of Jeremy Lamb, who simply goes berserk at the sight of anything Toronto related.
The Raptors have dug themselves into a little bit of a hole recently, losing five of their last six games, while the Hornets are on a little bit of an upswing, winning their last two outings. Toronto is 1.5 games back of Charlotte, so this game has the potential to have some seeding implications down the line if both teams remain close in the standings. The Raptors have beat the Hornets twice in preseason and twice back in January, and all of the games were relatively close; three of those four games finished with the Raptors winning by 3 points. With a depleted roster, it’ll be interesting to see if Toronto can still remember how to break out the bug spray for their last regular-season matchup against Buzz City.
Kyle Lowry, Chris Boucher, and Norman Powell have all been playing excellently over the past few games, but they’re going to need some help sooner or later as long as long as the team is missing some key guys. Speaking of Norm, how awesome has he been? 23.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game on 52.8/46.5/89.6 shooting splits in his 21 games since becoming a starter and launched 33 points on 55/60/71.4 against the Hawks just the other night. He’s definitely shaken off his rust from early in the season, and it’ll be interesting to see how his offensive load is handled once the team is back to full strength. Hopefully, his production doesn’t dip too much as he’s proving what an efficient weapon he can be on the offensive end when given the opportunity.
As for the Hornets, what an unexpectedly fun team they’ve been this year. Lamelo is making a lot of doubters look completely silly (myself included) while practically running away with the Rookie of the Year award. Since the beginning of February, Lamelo is averaging 20.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.8 assists on 46.4/43.4/82.6 shooting splits. Hayward and Rozier are having some solid seasons as well, with Rozier, in particular, enjoying a strong improvement in efficiency and a more consistent scoring role. PJ Washington and Miles Bridges are their usual fun, athletic selves, and Malik Monk has even found a role as a lethal scoring presence for Charlotte of the bench, averaging 20.1 points per game over his last 7 appearances.
With how tight the last few regular season scraps against the Hornets have been, the Raptors are going to have to be much stronger at closing the game than they were against the Hawks.
…Does anyone else miss Bismack Biyombo?
Tip-off: 7:00 PM EST | TV: SN1 | Radio: TSN 1050. The Raptors are a 3 point favorite based on the more recent basketball updates.
Assuming there aren’t any last-minute changes to the health and safety protocols:
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Norman Powell, Terence Davis, Matt Thomas, Jalen Harris
SF: DeAndre’ Bembry, Paul Watson
PF: Stanley Johnson, Yuta Watanabe, Henry Ellenson
C: Aron Baynes, Chris Boucher
PG: Lamelo Ball, Devonte’ Graham
SG: Terry Rozier, Malik Monk, Caleb Martin, Nate Darling
SF: Gordon Hayward, Cody Martin
PF: PJ Washington, Miles Bridges, Jalen McDaniels
C: Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo, Nick Richards, Vernon Carey Jr.
The Hornets are two-point favourites over the Raptors with the over/under being 229.5. Raptors scores have hit over that number in three of their last four games, so be aware of that while their lineup is still depleted. Even then, the Raptors have been a difficult team to predict when missing some key players.