When: April 5, at 7:30 p.m. EST
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Canada
TV: FOX Sports Southeast, TSN1
The Charlotte Hornets arrive in Toronto for Tuesday's tilt with the Raptors after a 112-103 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. The Hornets fell behind early and were unable to make up for the 15 point deficit at the end of the first half. Now, with just six games remaining in the regular season, the Hornets begin to prepare for the playoffs with plenty of opportunities to still climb back up the Eastern Conference standings. After Sunday's loss, the team fell from the third to the sixth seed but still only remain a half game back of that very spot.
Another story line heading into Tuesday's game revolves around the possible 45 win mark. Since professional basketball returned to Charlotte in 2004, the highest mark in wins has been 44. Tonight, the Hornets have a chance to top that mark in what has undoubtedly been the best season in the Bobcats/Hornets era. However, they are playing another team who's set their own team records. With a win over the Atlanta Hawks last week, the Raptors reached 50 wins for the first time in franchise history. With the two seed locked, the Raptors now look to avenge their quick exit from the playoffs a year ago with a deep run in this year's postseason.
As for this matchup specifically, the two teams have split the season series thus far with the Raptors taking the most recent one 104-94 back on New Year's Day. Despite losing DeMarre Carroll shortly after the January battle, the Raptors have recently been encouraged by rookie Norman Powell, a second round pick out of UCLA, who has now started 11 straight games and performed admirably. On the other hand, guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have continued their remarkable seasons and will need to be contained to some degree in order for the Hornets to win. Lowry is averaging 19 points and nine assists in the two meetings with the Hornets, as DeRozan has averaged 27 points in those contests.
However, ongoing questions will persist until tip-off regarding active and inactive players for both teams. DeRozan sat out in the Raptors' last game for resting purposes, and for the Hornets, both Nicolas Batum and Al Jefferson are listed as questionable heading into tonight. It wouldn't be surprising to see both teams favor the cautionary side in deciding who will and will not be available. The Raptors may continue to rest their key players down the final stretch of this regular season, while the Hornets will make their decisions knowing they are heading into a back-to-back.
With that said, the Hornets still want to get a big win in trying to climb up the standings. They will need a total team effort, especially with the possibility of missing key players. Kemba Walker will look to lead the charge once again after scoring 27 and 29 in his last two games. Lastly, look for the Hornets to exploit the matchups in the post with Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams spreading out Jonas Valanciunas and Luis Scola.The Hornets look to shake off a loss in Cleveland with a matchup against the Raptors in the front of a back-to-back.