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Raptors-Hornets: Toronto Opens Three-Game Road Trip In Charlotte

The Hornets are playing well and fighting for a playoff spot. The Raptors just want to round into form for the postseason.

Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Where to watch: 7:00 pm, Sportsnet One

After what you could call an encouraging loss at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Raptors -- who are now 2-6 since the All-Star Break -- open a three-game road trip in Charlotte tonight. The Hornets are 26-33, but after a road win over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, they've now won three in a row and four out of their last five and currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

Mo Williams, acquired just before the All-Star Break from the Minnesota Timberwolves, has been huge for the Hornets, averaging 21.6 points and 8.9 assists in seven games with Charlotte, while shooting 41.1 percent from three.

Kyle Lowry -- who has sat out the past three games -- will travel with the team on this road trip but his status for tonight's game has not been determined as of yet. The Raptors are now battling both Chicago and Cleveland for the second seed in the East, although coach Dwane Casey seems more concerned about making sure his All-Star point guard is rested and healthy for the playoffs than trying to get every win right now. All of this makes sense. As nice as it would be to finish with 49 or more wins (which would be a franchise record) and to get the second seed, the Raptors will be favored in any first round match-up provided they finish anywhere from second to fourth, and they'll have home court advantage.

Assuming the top four remains Atlanta, Toronto, Chicago and Cleveland in some order, there's not really one particular team you want to face or want to avoid in the bottom four. And of course, we've not been given a lot of information about what exactly is wrong with Lowry, but we have to assume that it's serious enough that the team has deemed this period of rest to be necessary. Again, I'm pretty sure if these were the playoffs, Lowry would be playing, but he should take as long as he needs to get back to 100 percent.

Given where the Hornets are in the standings, and how sharp they looked on Wednesday in Brooklyn, this will not be an easy game for Toronto, with or without Lowry. They've got the Thunder and Spurs next on this trip. So, this might be the most winnable game on the trip.