Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
How to watch: Fox Sports South, NBA League Pass
The Hornets are coming off of a brutal loss against the Milwaukee Bucks last night in a game that they never really showed up for. Charlotte is now 5-5 in their last 10 games, and frustratingly inert in the standings. While they are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, their eight remaining games are all against superior teams with something to play for with most still jockeying for position in the middle of the increasingly volatile playoff standings.
Despite temporarily losing franchise star Kyle Lowry to a wrist injury at the All-Star Break, Toronto remains among the east elite. While they aren't likely to move up past their current fourth place standing, they are still playing to cement that spot and get home court advantage. A win tonight and a loss by Atlanta would secure that.
The Raptors are one of the hotter teams right now, having won their last six games. Even without Lowry, Toronto has a deep bench and matchup problems all over. Kobe-acolyte DeMar DeRozan is exactly the type of isolation scorer that has given the Hornets problems all year, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will have his hands full following him around all night.
Before being acquired by the Raptors around the trade deadline, Serge Ibaka had one of his best first halves of his career against Charlotte for the Orlando Magic, scoring 20 points on nearly perfect shooting, though he did cool off significantly in the second half.
Its hard to predict how the Bugs will look from night to night. They’ve won four of their past six, but two of those wins came against league doormats Orlando and Phoenix, and another against the rapidly declining Hawks, who were without All-Star Paul Millsap.
There are some positives for Charlotte to look to as the team closes the season. For one, Kemba Walker is still on the team, and he is incredible at basketball. Cody Zeller has been able to stay healthy so far and looks to have gotten past that rash of injuries that played such a huge factor in derailing the season.
Frank Kaminsky has also shown some positive signs of progress after returning from a weird shoulder injury. Prior to going down, Frank was having an extended hot streak of great play, and while his touch is a little spotty here and there, his confidence in taking on the role of second scoring option looks to be back.