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Charlotte Hornets 94, Toronto Raptors 104: Notes and Observations

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A look at how drives and offensive rebounds by the Raptors prevented Charlotte from winning last night's game.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Giving up Drives and Offensive Rebounds

Driving to the basket is a Toronto Raptors strength, while securing their own glass is a keystone of coach Steve Clifford's Charlotte Hornets. Last night the Hornets lost both of these battles.

Per player tracking data at nba.com, the Raptors are second in the league in drives by dribbling from 20 feet of the hoop to within 10 feet of the hoop 35.9 times per game (only four teams average more than 30 such drives). Toronto is good in this department due to DeMar DeRozan's (2nd) and Kyle Lowry's (14th) effort as both of the All-Star guards rank in the top15 in the league.

Last night both of them topped their averages (DeRozan had 17 instead of his usual 11.9, Lowry 1.6 more than his usual 9.4) as Charlotte was unable to prevent dribble penetration. The Raptors as a team recorded 39 drives

It ultimately seemed to be the main factor for Toronto's victory. Charlotte might have pulled out a win if the game was 42 minutes long, however, the effectiveness of repeated drives and kick-outs to shooters simply overwhelmed the Hornets in the long run.

Take a look at this play, per example. Terrence Ross doesn't get successfully "Iced" on the pick-n-roll as he gets to the middle of the court and thus all hell breaks loose:

Guards being able to drive to the paint after a pick-n-roll is everyday business. You just have to do your best to contain the action (kudos to Cody Zeller for opponents shooting 4/16 at the rim last night when defended by him) and reduce the initial advantage the offense gets thanks to the screen.

However, the previously posted breakdown, where Ross splits the "Ice" coverage, is a no-no in coach Clifford's defensive schemes. Moreover, plenty of drives given up could be labeled as "unforced". Jeremy Lamb, whose defense production has been mediocre throughout the season, had plenty of trouble containing his assignments:

As far as defensive rebounding is concerned, the Hornets recovered a lowly 59.2% of rebounds from their own basket. The team's mark for the season is 79.3% as they are chasing a three-peat in the defensive rebounding percentage title (currently, only the Spurs are in front of Charlotte).

Jonas Valanciunas in particular was a force with 7 offensive rebounds to his name. On the plays, on which four or even five Hornets were pushed in beneath their own basket in a bootless pursuit for the ball, the team looked helpless:

A couple of more possessions closed out by a defensive rebound just might have made the difference.

Nicolas Batum's and Kemba Walker's Playing Time

Nicolas Batum has clocked two 42-minute games in a row after being a game-decision for the bout against the Clippers due to a toe injury. Props to him for playing through the ailment as the banged up Hornets need his presence.

If Jeremy Lin, another capable creator, weren't out, Clifford might have been able to give Batum some more breather. However, at this point the coach is forced to have Batum or Kemba Walker out on the court at all times.

Walker has averaged 40.3 minutes per game in the last eight matches, while Batum is at 37.8 during the same span (he missed the previous Toronto game due to an illness though). One has to hope that they don't get ran in the ground. Meanwhile, Steve Clifford has to figure out how to get them a bit more rest, even if you can't blame him for their minute allocation in a game like last night's.

The Tyler Hansbrough vs. Bismack Biyombo Altercation

I enjoyed watching Hansbrough and Biz go at it numerous times when competing for rebounding position. The Reddit r/nba page today even has a popular post titled "Raptors commentator recalls the time he called Hansbrough a hack, immediately gets reminded why", which is something I would have missed out on since I watched the game through the Hornets feed.

Does anybody though remember anything about their previous dust-up which Stephanie Ready mentioned? I had little luck trying to dig up the game during which it happened, even if I have some recollection of seeing such an incident.

Best I could do (which was quite easy as there isn't much skill to searching for "Hansbrough Biyombo" on YouTube) was this dunk by Biz after which him, Hansbrough and Gerald Henderson exchange some pleasantries.