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Hornets look to keep playoff hopes alive against the Raptors

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The Hornets need a win tonight against one of the best teams in the league.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

What: Charlotte Hornets (36-42) vs. Toronto Raptors (56-23)

When: 7:00 p.m. EDT

Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC

How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

We could really use this exact headline for every game until the Hornets lose, just changing the team name for the sake of accuracy.

The Hornets have already beaten the Raptors once, so we know it can be done. Yes, it took an insane buzzer beater to pull it off, but the Hornets played well enough over the course of the game to deserve the win.

The Raptors come into this game riding a hot streak. They’re 56-23 and top five in both offensive and defensive rating, so their whole season has been a hot streak, but I digress.

They are winners of five straight games, refusing to let any team keep the score close, for fear of being beaten by another half court heave. Their smallest margin of victory in that streak came in its first game against the Bulls, a nine point win that was only that close because the Bulls closed the game on a 14-2 run in garbage time. Prior to those final 210 seconds, the Raptors were up by 19.

In those five games, the Raptors have put up an offensive rating of 115.9 (compared to their season mark of 112.5) and have assisted on an absurdly high 72.4% of their makes. They’ve made 16.8 3-pointers per game while shooting them at a 44.7% clip. Lovely. Marc Gasol has been fully integrated into the offense and it’s made them incredibly difficult to stop.

The Hornets are kind of limping into this game after three straight losses and a win over a depleted Pelicans team that required many fourth quarter heroics from Kemba Walker. They will have to play with a ton of energy and will probably have to get hot from deep to win this game, like they did in Toronto.

The Hornets will be without Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller again as they deal with the same ailments that have kept them out previously. Patrick McCaw is the only entry on the Raptors injury report. He’s out with a sprained thumb.

There is a chance that the Raptors will manage the minutes of their more important players tonight. The Bucks’ win over the 76ers last night clinched the one seed for Milwaukee, meaning the Raptors are locked into the two spot. They may start resting guys to keep them fresh for the postseason.