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Raptors visit Charlotte, take on the Hornets: Preview, start time, and more

Toronto looks to make it six wins in a row tonight against Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets. And what’s more, there are playoff implications on the line.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

With three games remaining on the schedule, there are several questions that need to be answered for the Raptors. Should Toronto start sitting the starters and if so when is the right time? The squad is locked into the two-seed with Milwaukee’s win against Philadelphia last night and it wouldn’t hurt to rest before the playoffs start eight days from now.

What about the team’s mojo? The Raptors are currently rocking a five-game win-streak and have been shooting it well from deep — something that has been one of their bigger weaknesses all season. Should the Raps just rest Kyle Lowry? History tells us that Kyle has never been one to come back sharp after sitting out a game for rest. Some of the older guys like Danny Green and Marc Gasol could use a break, but these games before the post-season offer a chance for the newer additions to the squad (Gasol, Jeremy Lin, and to a certain extent Jodie Meeks) a chance to get more accustomed with the offense.

What about sitting Kawhi Leonard? Toronto has finally had a chance to play Lowry, Kawhi, and Gasol in extended minutes in consecutive games for the first time all season and sitting him now could be counterproductive.

It’s April and the NBA’s version of March Madness (March sadness?) is over. We’re watching west coast powerhouses like Houston — beating the Kings and Clippers by 25 and 32 points in back-to-back games — and Golden State — 47-point blowout win against Charlotte followed by a dominant statement win against Denver — gearing up with a little over a week before post-season play. The warm-ups are nearly done. Here are the details for tonight’s contest.

Where to Watch:

Sportsnet One, 7:00 PM EST

Lineups:

Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol

Charlotte – Kemba Walker, Dwayne Bacon, Miles Bridges, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo

Injuries:

Toronto – O.G. Anunoby (concussion – probable), Patrick McCaw (thumb – OUT)

Charlotte – Tony Parker (personal – day-to-day), Marvin Williams (foot – day-to-day), Cody Zeller (knee – day-to-day)

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Deep Range Deadeye

Toronto has been shooting like it’s a video game recently. In their last five games they’ve made 12, 20, 18, 19, and 15 shots from three-point range. Danny Green has been knocking them down. Marc Gasol has been knocking them down. Even Serge Ibaka, who’s having a poor season overall shooting from beyond the arc, has been knocking them down. He went an impressive 5-for-5 against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

Is this because the Raptors are finding more open shooters more easily? As of late, the team’s assists have been going up thanks in part to the quick decision making of Marc Gasol. While the weakness of their recent schedule has a part to play, it’s hard to argue with the results. Made shots are made shots. And after Toronto’s sluggish start to the season with their shooting numbers, they may be finally peaking at the right time.

Pascal Siakam, the MIP

During the first half of the season, Pascal Siakam had a legitimate shot to be an Eastern Conference All-Star. He has even pushed some into believing that he is now the Raptors second best player. And the crazy thing about all of that? He’s actually been better than that.

We know Kyle Lowry is the heart and engine of the Raptors, and that Kawhi is the most talented player on the team. But the breakthrough of Siakam this season has only made life easier for Kyle and Kawhi, and in turn, Toronto as a whole. The post-season is another animal all together, but with the consistent improvement Siakam has shown all season, he’s poised to make this post-season run for Toronto an exciting one. What will he bring tonight against Charlotte after posting a casual 28-10-5 in his previous outing? Who knows!

Match-ups, Match-ups, Match-ups

With just a few days until the regular season ends, the Raptors still don’t know who they’ll be playing in the opening round. Separated by just one game, Detroit, Brooklyn, Orlando, and Miami are fighting for three spots — with the Hornets standing just outside the group. A loss tonight for Charlotte would likely spell the end of their quest. From a Raptors perspective, each of those four teams (setting aside the Hornets), present some problems for Toronto.

Two squads have been particularly difficult for Toronto. Detroit swept them 3-0 in the regular season series thanks to Blake Griffin and the canny coaching of Dwane Casey. Meanwhile Orlando posed all sorts of match-up problems with their immense length and team speed. Purely from a number’s standpoint, Toronto should be hoping they play against Brooklyn or Miami — but it could all come down to the last day of the season.