The reeling Toronto Raptors are in Charlotte, North Carolina, tonight to play the last game of their six-game road trip against the Charlotte Hornets. The visiting Raptors are on a three-game losing streak, 2-8 since the “new era,” while the Hornets are on an eight-game losing streak.
Hopefully, the Gatorade icon on the Raptors’ key players will be gone by tip-off. They looked listless against the New Orleans Pelicans, who led by as much as 45 points the other night. It will be the Raptors’ third game in four nights, so we will see if they have enough to cap off their road trip on a positive note.
Coach Darko Rajakovic sounded dejected after the Pelicans game, citing fatigue as part of this league and calling their performance unacceptable. Hopefully, that would light a fire on these road-weary Raptors.
The season saw the Raptors usher the team into the Darko Ages, with wins, moral victories, and overall positive things eluding the team for the most part. However, in the midst of this Darko Age, a bright star shone for the Raptors, as he was named as an injury replacement yesterday. This recognition is such a fete for the young future face of the NBA, and hopefully, it will push Barnes to take his game even further.
The Pelicans game might have been a letdown, but despite the beating, much-maligned Raptors rookie Gradey Dick (a.k.a. Gradey Richard) was the lone bright spot, dropping his career-high 22 points while converting four trifectas.
1 minute of Joel Meyers and Antonio Daniels talking about Gradey Dick is everything you need today pic.twitter.com/mW8hgHYVfW— retroPels (@retro_pels) February 6, 2024
Barring a setback, expect RJ Barrett to be back after load management paid time off. Jontay Porter, who missed the last three games due to back spasms, got upgraded to “questionable” for tonight’s game. Gary Trent Jr. did not return after half-time in New Orleans due to back stiffness, but it looks like he might play, as he’s listed as “probable.” The Raptors recalled Kira Lewis Jr. from the Raptors 905, while Javon Freeman-Liberty is not listed as “On Assignment” on the injury report. Since the Raptors 905 was just in Long Island, is a short flight to North Carolina to join the team feasible?
The Hornets have several players expected or likely to miss the game tonight (*cough* tanking *cough*). Lamelo Ball and Mark Williams are both out, while Gordon Hayward, Cody Martin, and Frank Ntilikina are all “questionable” due to various “injuries.” Sadly, there won’t be a Raptors reunion tour tonight as Kyle Lowry’s contract is not expected to be in the building for this game.
It may be a depressing season for the Hornets, but their Social Media team delivered some fun content, albeit unintentionally:
Starting lineup looks like a hair and beard growth timeline https://t.co/7DRTSZK52G— 3J Washingstan (@washingstan) February 5, 2024
Despite facing a depleted Hornets team, the Raptors will have their hands full with Miles Bridges and Brandon Miller expected to carry the Hornets’ offense. The ‘23 2nd overall pick averages 29.2 points while shooting almost 45% from the perimeter on 9.4 attempts per game over the last five games. On the other hand, Bridges dropped 41 points against the Los Angeles Lakers the other day.
If Trent Jr. can’t play, coach Darko Rajakovic should look into inserting Gradey Dick or Jordan Nwora into the starting lineup instead of using Bruce Brown or Dennis Schroder as their resident part-time starter.
Here’s to hoping that the Raptors “show up” tonight because even a tanking team like the Hornets would love to get a win once a month. The Raptors are probably one of their easier games this month, so they must bring their “A” game tonight.
How to Watch:
Sportsnet ONE at 7:00 pm ET
Toronto: Immanuel Quickley, Gary Trent Jr., RJ Barrett, Scottie Barnes, Jakob Poeltl
Charlotte: Ish Smith, Brandon Miller, Leaky Black, Miles Bridges, Nick Richards
Toronto: Jontay Porter (Questionable — Back), Gary Trent Jr. (Probable — Back)
Charlotte: LaMelo Ball (Out — Ankle), Mark Williams (Out — Back), Frank Ntilikina (Questionable — Hip), Cody Martin (Questionable — Knee), Gordon Hayward (Questionable — Calf), Amari Bailey (Out -- NBA GL), Kyle Lowry’s Contract (Out — Not With Team)