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Preview: Slumping Hornets take on the streaking Raptors

Charlotte has dropped four straight while Toronto is on a five-game winning streak.

Charlotte Hornets v Toronto Raptors Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

What: Toronto Raptors (28-23) at Charlotte Hornets (28-26)

When: 7:00 PM ET

Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

Tonight’s game features two teams heading in different directions as of late. The Hornets have lost four straight while the visiting Raptors have won five in a row. Toronto currently sits 1.5 games ahead of Charlotte in the Eastern Conference standings so this game is an important one. If the Hornets can win tonight it will not only snap their losing streak, it will put them just half a game behind Toronto in the standings.

These two teams have squared off once this season back on January 25th in a game Toronto won at home 125-113. The Raptors played that game without Fred VanVleet but got the win behind a combined 56 points from Gary Trent Jr. (32) and OG Anunoby (24) on 19-of-35 shooting.

Toronto Raptors overview

Toronto’s two key players are newly-minted All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet and power forward Pascal Siakam. VanVleet has been spectacular this year averaging 21.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 7.2 assists - all career highs - while shooting 39.3% from the 3-point line. Siakam was considered an All-Star snub by many this year with his versatile 21.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game. Coach Nick Nurse has really empowered Siakam to be an offensive facilitator this year and the results have been solid.

The starting five is rounded out by shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. (18.1 PPG, 39.9% 3PT on 7.9 attempts) who stretches the defense and plays solid defense of his own. Forward OG Anunoby (18.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.6 SPG) can also both score and defend. Rookie power forward Scottie Barnes, the No. 4 pick in the 2021 draft, has been really good in his first NBA season by averaging 14.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.4 assists in over 36 minutes per game.

While the Raptors starting five is as solid as they come, their bench is somewhat weak. Power forward Precious Achiuwa plays about 24 minutes per game and averages just over seven points and seven rebounds. Big man Chris Boucher plays around 20 minutes per game and averages 9.1 points and 5.9 rebounds, but he’s as inconsistent as any player in the NBA. Point guard Dalano Banton, shooting guard Svi Mykhailiuk, and center Khem Birch round out the rotation.

How the Hornets can win

The Hornets once potent offense has started to taper off in recent weeks. After being among the top teams in the league in offensive rating for much of the season they have recently fallen to No. 11 with an offensive rating of 111.7. Toronto is No. 13 at 111.2, so these teams are pretty evenly matched putting the ball in the basket.

When it comes to defense the Raptors 109.9 rating is No. 17 in the NBA while the Hornets 112.2 rating ranks No. 24. Toronto plays better defense when compared to Charlotte, but these are two pretty evenly matched teams overall.

Where this game may be decided is in the pace of play. The Hornets love to push the ball with a pace of 101 (number of possessions per game) which ranks second in the league. Toronto prefers to slow things down and their pace of 96.3 ranks 26th in the NBA.

One of the keys to victory could be the Hornets pushing the pace and trying to tire out the Raptors starters, all of whom average somewhere between 34.9 and 38.7 minutes per game. That’s a heavy load. Charlotte has the deeper bench, so this game could be won by speeding up the tempo, tiring out Toronto’s starters, then letting bench guys like Kelly Oubre Jr. and PJ Washington come up big in their reserve roles.

Poll

What’s your prediction for tonight’s game?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Hornets win easy
    (6 votes)
  • 23%
    Hornets win a close one
    (27 votes)
  • 34%
    Raptors win a close one
    (40 votes)
  • 37%
    Raptors win easy
    (43 votes)
116 votes total Vote Now