When we look at Toronto’s last nine games, the Raptors should win all of them. However, the way this league works, we know they’ll inexplicably drop two of the nine. Will a loss come against the Brooklyn Nets? They’re fighting for playoff seeding for the first time in years and — I’m sure in their minds — looking to avoid a first-round matchup against Toronto. Will it be the Magic? Only one game under current eighth seed Miami, they lead the season series against Toronto 2-1. How about the Heat? Toronto beat them handily on their home court a few weeks ago and they’ll fight tooth and nail to keep that final playoff spot.
Missing from this conversation is the current tenth seed in the East, the Charlotte Hornets. They sit 2.5 games out of a play-off spot with a challenging final 10 games. They play against five playoff teams (Toronto twice) which includes a couple of Western conference teams (Spurs, Jazz, and reigning champion Warriors). They also play a few squads battling for ping pong balls (Pelicans, Cavaliers, and — I can’t believe I’m typing this right now — the LeBron-led Lakers).
If they miraculously win most of these games, it could still set them up a potential win-or-go-home scenario against Orlando. Which definitely sounds like something out of a basketball nightmare, but is also something I’m sure the Magic would take take 10 times out of 10. The playoffs make teams go crazy.
Regardless, I’m sure rookie coach James Borrego is telling his squad to take it one game at a time. The squad they face this evening is the Toronto Raptors. Here are the details for the game.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 6:00 PM EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Charlotte – Kemba Walker, Dwayne Bacon, Miles Bridges, Marvin Williams, Bismack Biyombo
Toronto – Kyle Lowry (ankle – day-to-day)
Charlotte – Nicolas Batum (illness – day-to-day), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (concussion – day-to-day), Cody Zeller (knee – day-to-day)
Kemba Walker just missed out on a triple-double last night with 36 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. Charlotte is riding a two-game win streak and he’s scored over 30 in both games. They’ve won both games by seven.
Yet the Hornets still are not really riding high. In the win against Minnesota, Walker took eight triples and hit one. Jeremy Lamb shot 6-for-20 for 13 points. In the win against the Celtics, Charlotte should not have had a chance at winning. The Celtics got outscored 19-35 in the final frame in what looked more and more like a patented Celtics collapse. So which version of the Hornets will Toronto see tonight: an inefficient team that can still grind its way to a close game, or just a straight up inefficient team?
What was once something Toronto fans learned to rely on, and even in some cases prefer, was their bench unit. Unfortunately, since then it has turned bonkers. Since the trade that sent Jakob Poeltl down south, and with the insertion of Siakam into the starting five, Toronto’s bench has lost its beaming brilliance.
In the past two games, the Raps’ bench has been outscored 32-18 and 31-19 in games decided by less than 10 points. To break it down even further: OKC’s Dennis Schroder himself outscored the entire four-man output of Toronto’s subs on Friday night. With a few games against teams at the bottom coming up, hopefully the bench can gain some confidence heading into the playoffs.
Danny Green is on fire, folks, and its coming right on time. Since returning from the All-Star break, he’s shooting 54 percent from deep on six attempts a game. He’s only hit less than two threes in a game twice in the last 13 contests.
Raptors fans know how long Toronto has been looking for someone (besides Kyle Lowry; likely out again tonight) who could hit the three at a good clip while also providing great defence on the other end. As a throw-in piece in what could be the franchise defining trade, Green could be a huge piece in the most important playoff run in franchise history to date.