Bobcats-Raptors Preview

Kemba Walker is starting to heat up for the Charlotte Bobcats,

playing very differently than he did against the Toronto Raptors

last month.

Walker and the Bobcats go on the road Wednesday night to face a

new-look Raptors team that is gaining in confidence.

The third-year guard has scored 24 points in consecutive games,

helping Charlotte (11-14) end a three-game skid with Tuesday’s

95-87 home win over Sacramento. He’s averaging 20.4 points over the

last eight contests.

”I’ve been working hard since this summer,” Walker said.

”I’ve put in a lot of time. I started off slow shooting the

basketball (this season), but hopefully now I can hit a groove.

I’ve been feeling great and I’ve been shooting a lot.”

One of those efforts when he started the season slow was a

five-point performance on 2-of-13 shooting in a 92-90 victory over

Toronto (9-13) on Nov. 6. Gerald Henderson picked up the slack with

a team-high 23 points.

The Raptors were a different team then before last week’s trade

that sent Rudy Gay to the Kings, with Patrick Patterson, Chuck

Hayes, John Salmons and Greivis Vasquez joining Toronto.

Toronto is 2-1 since that deal, winning for the third time in

four games Saturday with a 99-77 victory at Chicago. It marked the

Raptors’ best defensive effort in terms of points allowed and

opponent field-goal percentage (36.0).

“I’ve seen some good things growing, confidence growing a little

bit,” coach Dwane Casey said. “The ball movement has been good, our

defense has been solid, not great.”

Hayes has not seen action yet and could make his Toronto debut

Wednesday.

“We’ll see where he is,” Casey said. “Right now Patrick and our

other guys, Amir (Johnson) is playing pretty well, JV (Jonas

Valanciunas) is playing pretty solid, so he’s going to have to

bring a lot to the table because there’s so many guys.”

Terrence Ross has become a starter since the trade, with the

second-year swingman averaging 15.7 points in the three games.

“You just have to be more focused, you just have to be dialed

in,” Ross said. “It’s a lot more that you have to deal with and

it’s a lot more that you have to go and prepare that you have to

take on.”

Casey has lauded the newcomers for providing toughness to the

club. All have began their Toronto careers as reserves, with

Patterson and Vasquez combining for 36 points in their first two

games – victories for the Raptors.

“For myself personally, I want to bring energy, toughness and

new focus to this team and just keep sharing the ball,” Patterson

said.

The Bobcats uncharacteristically shot well from long range

Tuesday, making 8 of 17 3-pointers with Walker connecting four

times. Charlotte is last in the league in that department at 29.7

percent.

”It makes us tough to guard,” Henderson said. ”You have to

come out there and guard the 3-point line with guys that can get to

the basket, so it’s a tough thing. If we’re knocking down the

3-ball that opens up a lot for us.”

Charlotte has dropped its last three visits to Toronto.