A 3-0 start is certainly enjoyable, but what’s even more exciting and rare is four straight wins to begin a season. The Raptors have only started 4-0 once in its franchise history: three seasons ago when they got off to a perfect 5-0 start. (Don’t look up what happened at the end of that season.)
They’ll have the opportunity to achieve their fourth win in as many games tonight against the Charlotte Hornets. It’s a Hornets team that comes into Toronto having won both games out in Florida — against the Magic and Heat. They’ll also be playing their third game in four nights and third of a four game road trip.
Last season, the Raptors had it easy with the Hornets winning all four games by an average margin of 14-points.
There’s no key match-up in this game beyond Kyle Lowry versus Kemba Walker. Two very talented point guards: the former with a very talented roster around him and the latter with a lack thereof. Walker has had to do most of the scoring for the Hornets thus far, averaging 35.3 points per game. Malik Monk is the only other Hornet to score double digits in every game.
Kawhi Leonard is probably back for the Raptors as well, which bodes well for the team’s early season momentum. Sure, it’s early and we shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves, but this Raptors team looks good and still has room to grow.
Here’s the details for tonight’s game:
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One, 7:30pm (EST)
Raptors – Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Jonas Valanciunas
Hornets – Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller
Raptors – Delon Wright (thigh, day-to-day)
Hornets – None
The Kawhi-Parker watch
Back in July, Tony Parker said the media blew his comments from back in March “out of proportion.”
Tony Parker on his return from the career-threatening quad injury he suffered last May: I’ve been through it. It was a rehab for me for eight months. Same kind of injury (as Kawhi), but mine was a hundred times worse. But the same kind of injury. You just stay positive."— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) March 23, 2018
As a member of the media, I’d like to continue blowing this out of proportion a little: I’m just trying to give game four of 82 a story-line, to be honest.
Parker and Leonard played seven seasons together in San Antonio and won a championship together in 2014, but their relationship might still be a bit strained from Parker’s comments.
It’ll be interesting to see how the two will interact during the game. Both players are professionals, so I don’t see them having any confrontation during the game, but will they hug it out post-game? Are these two long-time teammates in each other’s good books, even though Kawhi forced himself out of San Antonio, a franchise Parker loves and admires?
Will either play go up to each other after the game just for a short moment? Hug Watch is officially on.
The Raptors have yet to keep an opponent under 100 points this season. With the addition of two solid defensive players (Kawhi and Green), the Raptors’ defense can only get better than what it was a season ago. In 2017-18, they posted a 105.1 defensive rating — fifth best in the NBA – and held teams under the 100-point mark 33 times.
The perfect time to do it for the first time this season is against a Hornets team that lacks offensive power. Sure, they’ve scored 100-plus in all three of their games, but Walker has put up 39, 26, and 41 points in those games. The Raptors have a handful of players that can contain the point guard, which will make it difficult for the rest of the Hornets if their All-Star is stalled.
Take Care of the Ball
The Raptors were solid with the ball in the first two games of the season, only turning the ball over 10 times versus Cleveland and 12 against Boston. On the back-end of a back-to-back, the Raptors turned it over 17 times on Saturday versus the Wizards, leading to 30 points off turnovers.
The Raptors have been a top-six team when it comes to preventing turnovers every season but one during the Kyle Lowry-era (2013-14 ranked ninth in the league). There’ll be games like the one against the Wizards where things get sloppy, but it’s about how you bounce back.
It’s a different offense so guys are still getting used to the system, but I expect this team to do a good job taking care of the ball tonight against the Hornets and for the rest of the season ahead. Just can’t make last game’s 17 turnovers into a bad habit.