Yeah, I kinda saw this happening.
The Charlotte Hornets lost to the Toronto Raptors Sunday afternoon in what was a one-sided affair from the first quarter. Don’t get me wrong, the Hornets put up a bit of a fight—they opened the game on a 10-0 run and managed to whittle the deficit down to seven a couple of times—but at no point did it feel like the Hornets were in control.
The Raptors are an incredible team and frankly the national media is doing them a disservice by focusing so heavily on the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers. No, seriously. This season, the Raptors are top-5 in both defensive efficiency and offensive efficiency.
That is a huge deal.
Raptors are the only team in the top 5 in both offensive & defensive efficiency.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) February 7, 2018
Over last 40 years, 35 teams have been top 5 in both...
31 won a playoff series.
27 made the conf. finals.
14 made The Finals.
11 won the title.
The Hornets saw the Raptors’ prowess in action today. It was a miserable experience as a Hornets fan seeing the Raptors play faster, smarter, and more aggressive than the Hornets by a significant margin. So much so, in fact, that on many possessions the Hornets struggled to get the ball across halfcourt and often couldn’t get an offensive set started at all.
Kemba Walker did what he could, chipping in 23 points and nine assists. Dwight Howard also put in a decent effort, finishing with 17 points and 13 boards. Outside of those two, however, the Hornets stunk.
Of most glaring concern was Nicolas Batum, who finished this afternoon’s game with two points on 0-of-10 shooting in 25 minutes. He was firing shots from all of his spots—most of them midrange jumpers—but kept coming up empty. It wasn’t until midway through the third quarter than Hornets head coach Steve Clifford elected to play Jeremy Lamb over Batum for the rest of the game.
Lamb managed to score 13 points on 50 percent shooting in 19 minutes but also turned the ball over four times—a big reason the Hornets finished with 13 turnovers for the game.
In years past we saw a DeMar DeRozan-centric offense in Toronto, but this year the team’s changed dramatically and uses him more as a backup option late in the clock. He filled in as needed against the Hornets, never dominating, exactly, and still finished with 25 points and eight assists. Three Raptors scored 20 or more points.
The Hornets repeatedly left C.J. Miles open behind the arc, allowing him to go 6-of-9 from deep and immediately halting whatever momentum the Hornets had built up by grinding. I cannot stress enough how awful the Hornets were defensively—they were usually a full rotation behind, giving the Raptors wide-open look after wide-open look.
As a result of this thing being a blowout, we did see Malik Monk take the court for seven minutes. He’s still awful on defense but looked great on offense where he took more of a backseat role than we’d seen from him in the past. Oh, and Cody Zeller hit a 3-pointer. That was weird.
While this loss sucked, it was, to a smart fan, expected. The Raptors are tops in the Eastern Conference and the Hornets just got back from a road trip out west. The Hornets head down to Florida for a game against the Orlando Magic on Valentine’s Day next, a game in which they should be able to pull out a win without much trouble.
We’ll see, though. You never know with this team.