Where: Air Canada Centre; Toronto, Ontario
When: 6:00 p.m. EST
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
The Charlotte Hornets look to avoid an 0-3 road trip as they take on the Eastern Conference leading Toronto Raptors today.
The good feelings from Charlotte’s five game winning streak are mostly gone. After getting blown out by the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, the Hornets blew a 14 point third quarter lead in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday. While the Boston defeat was excusable to a degree, the Sixers loss represented what we’ve seen much of the season: Kemba Walker heroics falling short, a blown double-digit lead, and a poor fourth quarter display. In a way, the loss felt like the end of the season.
If not, a loss today would certainly exacerbate the feeling. The Raptors are really good, and have defeated the Hornets three times already this season — all by double-digits, by the way. The last matchup — a 123-103 home loss — featured a Hornets thoroughly outmatched the entire game. Avoiding a blowout today would at least provide a little reassurance that Charlotte could make it a competitive playoff series. (And that’s assuming a lot of things go right to even make that happen!). Like it or not, that’s what the Hornets are playing towards.
But what about today? Charlotte needs more production from — believe it or not — their starting unit. Walker and Nicolas Batum were fine, scoring 31 and 14, respectively, but the other three starters combined for just 17 points. All three were in foul trouble, but they can’t afford to be in that position again today with the amount of tough matchups Toronto provides. They will need Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to guard DeMar Derozon, and Dwight Howard will need to stay in to handle Jonas Valanciunas.
Injury wise, Cody Zeller is listed as questionable. He really needs to play if they want any chance at winning (the team continues to be atrocious without him in the lineup). Willy Hernangomez was solid in his first extended run with the team, but Zeller’s size is preferable today.
I don’t expect a win, but I hope to see some positives. More balanced scoring with the starting unit, continued good play from Frank Kaminsky (the guy is playing well since the All-Star break) and better team defense — Charlotte is allowing 126 points a game against Toronto this season. Today probably ends in a loss, but if we keep our expectations low, we won’t feel too disappointed.