Hey! The Raptors have a game tonight! Huzzah.
You’d be forgiven for forgetting, as this marks Toronto’s first game since last Saturday, the first of only two Raptors games scheduled to be played this week.
They’ll be taking on the disappointing Charlotte Hornets, who at 8-11, are about to be 20 games into their (surprisingly positive!) experience in the Dwight-a-verse. The Hornets have had to deal with injuries to swingman Nic Batum and now, star point guard Kemba Walker, who is doubtful for tonight’s game with a shoulder injury.
How’s this one lining up? Let’s take a looksee, shall we?
Where to Watch
Sportsnet One, 7:30pm
Raptors - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Hornets - Michael Carter-Williams, Nic Batum, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Dwight Howard
Raptors - DeMar DeRozan (knee - probable), Delon Wright (shoulder - indefinite)
Hornets - Kemba Walker (shoulder - doubtful), Julyan Stone (hamstring)
Here are your keys to the game.
Welcome Back Master Batum!
The Hornets have struggled to start the season but are markedly better (3-3) with Nic Batum on the floor, which is unsurprising. He finished second on the team in assist percentage last season (27.3%), which was roughly the same as Walker, the primary ballhandler.
With Walker out tonight and Michael Carter-Williams as the only traditional point guard on the roster, look for the offense to run through Batum for much of the night, especially if Malik Monk can play well enough defensively to earn time ahead of MCW.
Make or Miss Something, Something...
Having Dwight Howard and Cody Zeller on your roster does come with its benefits. The Hornets rank second in the NBA in defensive rebound percentage (81.1%), while the the Raptors rank just 19th in offensive rebound percentage (17.5%).
Luckily for Toronto they’re currently third in the association in True Shooting Percentage (58.7%), trailing only Golden State and Houston. Just make all your shots on the first try, it’s way easier than putting.
They’ve Brought a Cucumber to a Pickle Fight
The Hornets have just one road win (1-8 overall), while Raptors are 6-1 on their home floor. On three days rest, one would expect Toronto to come out firing. I don’t generally like making predictions because anything can happy in the NBA on any given night, but after ugly losses to the Knicks and Pacers last week, I’d expect the Raptors to come out extra sharp in this one.
With one of Howard or Zeller likely to play all 48 minutes, we might even see some extra Jonas Valanciunas! What’s that guy been up to anyway? Not at the pulsating centre of any swirling, angsty, likely unsolveable controversy is he?
Who do you think comes out on top?