Charlotte Hornets at the Toronto Raptors Preview
In Friday’s matchup, two Eastern conference foes will go at it. The Hornets and Raptors are currently in very different situations with Toronto only trailing the NBA’s best Bucks in the East while Charlotte is sitting 6 games back of the 8th seed at 20-38. The Hornets will look to make it back-to-back wins following their close win over the Knicks on Wednesday brining their record to 3-2 over their last 5. Toronto is coming off a tough loss to the 1st seed Bucks and get the chance to turn it around against a team that figures to be in the lottery.
Time: 6:30 PM CST
Arena: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, CA
Raptors: Patrick McCaw (Questionable), Marc Gasol (Doubtful), Norman Powell (Out), Dewan Hernandez (Out)
Charlotte Hornets Starting Lineup
It has been a rebuilding year for the young Hornets squad and their poor 20-38 record shows that. Due to the lack of depth in the Eastern Conference they are still feasible in the playoff race (6 games back from the 8th seed) despite being 18 games under .500. I don’t expect whatsoever for Charlotte to really contend for that final spot in the postseason, but they are fully healthy and have won 4 of their last 6 games.
The catalyst for this Hornets team all year long has been their young backcourt duo of Devonte Graham’ and Terry Rozier. These two are both leading the team in scoring with 17 a game and led their squad past the Knicks in their last outing. The two combined for 47 against New York on the way to a 107-100 win.
Depth will be an issue for Charlotte against Toronto. Charlotte’s bench is weak to begin with and will be without their primary scorer off the bench, Malik Monk, who is currently suspended. This should be a big area of advantage for Toronto’s solid bench units. One area of opportunity for Charlotte will be the offensive boards. They average the third most offensive rebounds per game (11) in the NBA and Toronto allows the 2nd most offensive rebounds to opposing teams (11.4) in the league.
Toronto Raptors Starting Lineup
Toronto will most likely be missing key contributors, but they still should have no problem handling the Hornets. They should expect Patrick McCaw to return after missing Wednesday’s game with an illness. This return will provide Toronto with some reassured depth at the wing.
The Raptors had their two-game win streak snapped on Tuesday in a hard fought 108-97 loss to the Bucks This game was very competitive, as you would expect but a poor 3rd quarter gave Milwaukee all the momentum they needed to top the Raptors. Toronto was outscored 34-19 in the 3rd which was the outlier and the difference in a game where the won or tied all three other quarters.
Pascal Siakim but up an impressive outing against the Greek Freak with 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. His supporting cast helped by chipping in across the board with 5 other Raptors notching double-digit scoring performances. The downfall was poor shooting performance from Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka. The two combined to shoot a disastrous 4-27 from the field and 2-17 from behind the arc. Better shooting performances from Toronto’s number 2 and 4 scorers would have most likely propelled them past the tough Bucks
Toronto still should go into this game with a lot of confidence despite a loss in their lost contest. They are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA and I expect their top-level wings (Lowry, VanVleet, and Anunoby) to be able to slow down Charlotte’s explosive backcourt.
Key Player Matchup
P.J. Washington vs Pascal Siakim
The key to Charlotte’s success will be slowing down Siakim and rookie P.J. Washington will most likely be tasked to do so. This should be an entertaining matchup between one of the premier 4s in the NBA and a rookie who has already shown his versatility.
With Marc Gasol sidelined there is value with Serge Ibaka if you want to bank on a bounce-back performance. I expect Siakim to have no trouble getting his against Charlotte and should be in for his typical output. Some more value-based options I like are Washington and Chris Boucher.
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