The NBA season is still relatively young, but tonight’s game Raptors-Hornets appears to be a precursor of the playoffs.
The Charlotte Hornets have stepped smartly into the season, with a sparkling record which loses a few bubbles when examined more closely. They have done what they should do against punching bags like Brooklyn and Philadelphia, but dropped their only bragging-rights game against the Celtics.
The Toronto Raptorsare fresh off a defeat of the OKC Thunder, despite playing shorthanded. But Charlotte has always proven a thorn in the side of Toronto; they lead the lifetime series 40-29, even though they have floored some hideous teams over the years. In the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, Charlotte managed a 7-59 record, for a crisp .106 winning percentage. I have to give you the link so you’ll believe me.
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However, the Hornets look pretty solid to me. I forecast them for 43 wins, and won’t be surprised if they exceed that.
3 Keys to Victory for Toronto
DeMar DeRozan continues to light up the scoreboard. I write that with little pleasure, but where’s the alternative? Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas are day-to-day with their irksome injuries, so the number of scoring options are limited.
Don’t turn over the ball. Charlotte has an impressive +3.7 in turnovers forced vs. lost. Kemba Walker, their track-star point guard, makes almost 2 steals per game, so carelessness will be penalized.
Play loose on the perimeter. That runs contrary to my usual take on this matter, however, Charlotte ranks eighth in 3-point attempts but just twentieth in percentage made. I’ll take those numbers, rather than trying too hard to close out and being beaten on the dribble.
Frank Kaminsky. Their version of Jakob Poeltl is turning out a better pro than I thought he’d be. He’s mobile and has a decent handle.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He’s due back from injury, and will mix it up on the boards.
Nicolas Batum. The Frenchman has a nice stroke from outside.
Apr 5, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) looks to play a ball as Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) tries to defend during the second quarter in a game at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports