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Preview: Can the Hornets contain Chris Boucher and force a split with the Raptors?

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A win in Tampa would get the Hornets back to .500

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Toronto Raptors Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

What: Charlotte Hornets (6-7) vs. Toronto Raptors (3-8)

When: 7:30 pm EST

Where: Amalie Arena; Tampa, Florida

How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

The Hornets and the Raptors played just two days ago in Toronto’s “home” court in Tampa, Florida. Toronto held on for a 111-108 victory over Charlotte in their last meetings as the Hornets played without Gordon Hayward who is day-to-day with a hip injury. Let’s hope Gordon is ready to go for this one.

Toronto Raptors overview

The Raptors are arguably the league’s most disappointing team to start the season. After going 53-19 last year, Toronto is just 3-8 despite returning all five of their top players in minutes per game from last season in Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Norman Powell. Yes, they lost Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, but fourth-year big man Chris Boucher has broken out in their absences by averaging 15.3 points on 59% shooting, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game.

It was actually Boucher who wrecked the Hornets two days ago. He dropped 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting (including 2-of-4 3-pointers) with 10 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks in the Raptors narrow win.

Toronto’s has a mini version of a “Big Three” in Siakam (19.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 5.0 APG), VanVleet (20.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 6.0 APG), and six-time All-Star Kyle Lowry (18.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 7.2 APG). All three of these players can score, rebound, and facilitate. This team should be much better than 3-8.

How the Hornets can win

First, Charlotte needs to get Gordon Hayward back on the floor with his normal workload and contributions. Hayward alone is enough to bridge the three-point gap that separated the two teams on Thursday night.

Second, Devonte’ Graham just simply has to start hitting shots. Through 13 games he’s shooting just 30.1% from the field and has only broken the 40% field goal threshold in one game this year when he went 7-of-15 in a win against the Knicks. The Hornets will be a different team when Devonte’ can consistently start hitting over 40% of his shot attempts.

Lastly, contain Chris Boucher in the post. The Raptors three best players - Siakam, VanVleet, and Lowry - will normally get their points, but the Hornets actually contained them pretty well in their last meeting with Siakam and VanVleet going a combined 12-of-35 shooting. But all of that was undone when Boucher scored 25 points off the bench. Post defense has been an issue all season for Charlotte, and a better effort tonight could prevent back-to-back losses against a Toronto that’s struggling to find its feet.