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Five thoughts on last night: Hornets 99, Raptors 96

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The Raptors had a chance to win, but let’s all be honest: After 40 minutes or so of subpar play, they deserved to lose that one. 

Five thoughts recap: Charlotte Hornets 99, Toronto Raptors 96, Norman Powell John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

This may seem lazy of me, but the following sums last night up perfectly so I’m gonna pass on writing my usual introduction and just share this tweet:

Yup. Literally could not say it better myself.

Welp, Rondae...

Let’s not all pin this loss solely on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson; you’re not gonna shoot 35/23/69 as a team and win too many games, after all.

BUT. Hollis-Jefferson’s foul with 2.1 seconds to go clearly handed the win to the Hornets. And it was, absolutely, a foul. Terry Rozier may have embellished the contact, but no fan of a team that employs Kyle Lowry should ever be complaining about exaggerating contact. (And if the positions were reversed, and it was Kyle on the floor, we’d all be screaming for the ref to make that call.)

Hollis-Jefferson, unfortunately, also deserves some blame for his extremely ill-advised post-up with two minutes to go, which unsurprisingly went nowhere — and he immediately compounded his mistake by fouling Devonte’ Graham in frustration.

So not a great night for our guy Rondae. He was in a tough position, literally, all night, being forced into duty as a centre, but that doesn’t excuse those two plays.

Oh, it’s good to be back

If you’ll allow me:

Norman Powell is back baby! I was so glad just to see Powell on the court, and then when he drained his first triple (and two more in the first quarter) the fist pumps were flying in my living room.

Powell short-armed a couple shots (including a free throw) but otherwise looked rust-free. I missed this man.

Of course, no good news comes without bad news...

One Step Up, Two Steps Back

So Powell comes back, and Patrick McCaw comes back... and Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka are hurt!? And Marc Gasol’s mysterious hamstring injury is lingering way longer than a hamstring injury should. I’m just done with this, man.

It was a great story for a little while, the Raptors winning tons with constant lineup flux. But enough is enough. We’ve seen 59 games but we still don’t fully know what this team is capable of. Gasol, in particular (potentially) unlocks so much; on defense, obviously, as probably the smartest defensive player on the roster, but also on the other end. I mean, the Raptors’ three-point shooting has been pretty great all year, but how many more open looks could Powell, OG Anunoby, VanVleet, et al. get with Gasol on the floor?

I know that, after last year’s Finals, we shouldn’t be complaining about injury luck. But enough is enough.

Unbeatable Post D

It’s always highly amusing when clueless big men go after Kyle Lowry in the post, and he stones them. How have you not read the scouting report!?

It’s even more ridiculous when a former Raptor does it! Bismack Biyombo, you should know better, my man!

There were so few positives in this game, seeing Lowry go full KLOE in the fourth was super fun. Sure, he had a poor shooting night (everyone did) and a lot to make up for after a subpar game against Milwaukee but when he gets going like that, it’s great to see.

And when he rose up for that three-pointer with three seconds left, I thought for sure, after all he’d done in that fourth quarter, it was going in.

Alas.

It’s Time for my Clear Path Foul Rant

The clear path foul rule has to go.

Setting aside that the foul on OG Anunoby as he raced in for a dunk was a touch foul that did not impede the play and therefor wasn’t worth calling, this rule is broken.

Its intent was to dissuade defending players from fouling offensive players with easy breakaway dunks. Breakaway dunks are exciting and fouls are not, so the league wanted to punish defenders who did this by awarding the offensive team two free throws and the ball.

But it hasn’t dissuaded anyone from fouling. These fouls happen every game. And it leads to a video review, every single time it happens. Which is the least exciting thing possible.

The rule doesn’t work. Get rid of it! Or at least eliminate the video review part. I don’t even know why it’s necessary. Imagine if hockey and soccer refs went to video review every single time there was an offsides call? They don’t. Sure, they have lines to judge position by, but still, it isn’t that hard to see where two players are in contrast to one another. So, if you must keep it, make it a judgment call, and if a coach wants to challenge, he can.

But the best solution: Just get rid of it. And the coaches challenges too.

********

Do you remember a few years ago when it seemed like the Hornets just had Toronto’s number? It was never really the case; the Raptors were 6-5 against Charlotte between 2014 and 2017. But the Raptors were good and the Hornets were bad, so it felt like they just couldn’t beat Charlotte. Then the Raptors swept Charlotte in the 2017-18 season and all seemed right.

Well the series is 3-3 since then, with Charlotte winning by one, two, and three points (including Jeremy Lamb’s insane buzzer beater) and the Raptors winning one game by two points in OT (the Raps blew Charlotte out in the other two).

They meet one more time this season, in April, in Charlotte. Let’s hope that one turns out differently.