The Toronto Raptors are rolling right now, having won nine of their past 10 games and firmly entrenching themselves in the top tier of the Eastern Conference, alongside Boston and Cleveland.
They’ll head to Charlotte today to take on the Hornets, who were a 126-113 victim just eight games ago — and I happened to be the one who wrote your preview for that one also! I guess, I’ve got bees on the brain.
Things haven’t changed a ton since that game, though the Hornets will have a healthy Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist tonight, which you’d think would only help.
Serge Ibaka missed Sunday’s game against the Kings with a knee injury and is still officially listed as day-to-day, but I’d expect him to go in this one. If he doesn’t, it will be interesting to see if we see C.J. Miles in the starting lineup once again, or if the coaching staff goes with someone like Pascal Siakam against the sizeable Hornets front court.
Where to Watch
Sportsnet One, 7:00PM
Raptors - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Hornets - Kemba Walker, Nic Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, Dwight Howard
Raptors - Lucas Nogueira (calf, still out)
Hornets - Cody Zeller (knee), Treveon Graham (back spasms, questionable)
The East was supposed to be a conference of tiers this season, but there’s been some reshuffling, mainly in a sub-optimal direction. The Washington Wizards have struggled to stay healthy and have dropped out of the aforementioned top tier, while these Hornets of Charlotte, thought to be a solid contender for a playoff spot and potentially even a surprisingly tough out in the East, have sputtered to begin the season.
They’re currently 11-20 and look more suited to be grouped with teams like Orlando and Brooklyn, as opposed to Milwaukee, Miami or even New York, all of whom have far outperformed the Hornets this season.
Kylo Lowry vs. Kemba Sky-Walker
With mixed feelings about classifying our hero as the villain, the premise remains the same — this will be the battle that determines tonight’s match-up.
In their last meeting, Lowry went 8-for-11 from deep for a season-high 36 points, completely torching the Walker-less Hornets. Kemba is a very good defender and a gifted scorer in his own right, and despite dealing with a nagging wrist injury, he’s still the key to whatever offense the Hornets can muster.
In that vein, Toronto may want to play off Walker and pack the paint a little more densely — he’s shooting just 27.3% from three this month and is 0-for-13 in his last two games, as he’s clearly trying to play through something.
Chewie... We’re Home! Wait. What? No! It’s a Trap!
Things are looking nasty for the Hornets, as they catch the red-hot Raptors at the end of a four game home-stand during which they’ve gone just 1-2; the game kicks off a punishing five game stretch in which they play Toronto, followed by a home and home with the Bucks and then the Celtics and Warriors. Have mercy.
For their part, Toronto has played just 12 of their 28 games so far at home, and have dialed up a a lethal 11-1 record at the ACC, and a 9-7 record on the road. Despite that record, the Raptors are 7-3 in their past ten road games and will look to continue their trend under Coach Dwane Casey of being one of the best road teams in the NBA.
All that is to say, the Raptors are bringing their fly-swatters to Charlotte tonight.