When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
Where to Watch: ESPN, believe it or not.
The season wasn't supposed to end tonight, not for a Charlotte Hornets team riding the positive momentum of a playoff berth and a name change going into this season. The Hornets expected to be playing this weekend, instead, they will wrap up one of the most disappointing seasons in team history against the Toronto Raptors.
Charlotte has virtually nothing left to play for. They are locked in for the ninth pick in the draft, so no matter the result they will finish 11th in the Eastern Conference. However, certain players still have reason to compete. The likes of Brian Roberts, Jeff Taylor, and Troy Daniels are fighting for a spot in the rotation next season, either with Charlotte or somewhere else. Rookies Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston will use tonight as another chance to develop on the court. With his contract expiring at the end of this season, Bismack Biyombo has more one game to show Charlotte's front office he is worth bringing back. Tonight may be meaningless for the franchise as a whole, but for the players there is plenty to play for.
It is unclear how many minutes some of the key players will receive. Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson played horribly on Monday, and head coach Steve Clifford even commented post-game that Henderson had been playing with more than one injury. Both could start, but like Monday, could find themselves on the bench for most of the fourth quarter.
The Hornets' opponent, the Raptors, also have something to play for. If they beat Charlotte, and the Chicago Bulls lose, they will finish third in the Eastern Conference and match up with the Milwaukee Bucks. If things don't go their way, they end up the four seed, and will meet the Washington Wizards. The Bucks are theoretically a better match up for the Raptors, so expect Toronto to be playing in top gear.
However, the Raptors could possibly be without a few players, including Amir Johnson who is listed out with an ankle injury. DeMar DeRozan missed Tuesday's game with a sore groin, and it's unclear whether he will be risked tonight.
Limiting the Raptors on offense will be key if the Hornets are to earn the win. Toronto is a high-scoring team, and rank fourth in the league in points per game. They aren't particularly strong on defense, so if the Hornets can assemble a competent offense two games in a row, they'll have a shot, especially if DeRozan is rested.
It will be interesting if Charlotte can put up similar numbers from behind the arc as they did on Monday. The Hornets shot 40.6 percent from the 3-point line against the Rockets, making 13 total. Clifford grouped Taylor, Roberts, Daniels, and Marvin Williams together, and the team effectively rotated the ball and found themselves open from the 3-point line, particularly in the first half. If these rotation players can have another solid outing, the Hornets will likely be in the game. If the likes of Walker or Henderson can end the season on a good note, the Hornets just might win.
Tonight's game will be frustrating to watch given the expectations for the season back in October. Still, relish the game, because it'll be the last competitive game the Hornets will play until the Summer League (if that can be deemed competitive), and they won't play a regular season game again until next fall. Hopefully the Hornets can end the season with a win, and on a slight high note. A win won't change anything, but damnit a win would feel good.
Editor's note: Our own Joshua Priemski will be at this game rocking a Rufus On Fire shirt, praying for a Hornets win.