Raptors look for help beyond DeRozan against Hornets
TORONTO — Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan has been hot all season, scoring more than 30 points in six of his first seven games of the season.
The Raptors as a team, however, had been having a little more trouble.
They showed signs of finding their shooting range by hitting a season-high 11 3-pointers while DeRozan kept up his dazzling pace by scoring 37 points in a 112-102 victory over the Thunder on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.
“I think we just kept working on it and this is the start of something, hopefully,” said point guard Kyle Lowry, who had 19 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds on Wednesday. “I'm not going to get too excited about one good shooting night from 3, but we shot it well.”
The Raptors (5-2) will be put to the test Friday when they visit the Charlotte Hornets (6-1), who are tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers atop the Eastern Conference after defeating the Utah Jazz 104-98 on Wednesday night at Turner Warner Cable Arena.
The Hornets, who are off the franchise-best start, also are being tested. After playing the Raptors on Friday, they visit the Cavaliers on Sunday. The Cavaliers defeated the Raptors last season in the Eastern Conference finals before winning the NBA championship.
In defeating the Jazz, the Hornets overcame a 10-point disadvantage, the league-leading third time this season that they have come back to win after trailing by double digits. They beat the Miami Heat on Oct. 28 after trailing by 19 points and defeated the Philadelphia 76ers by 13 on Nov. 2.
Kemba Walker had 21 points on Wednesday and has 20 or more more points in six straight games. He is averaging 23.9 points per game with a field-goal percentage of 46.6 and a 3-point percentage of 43.5.
An important part of the Hornets' success has been their bench, which outscored the Jazz 41-20.
“We talk about coming off the bench and providing energy,” said Frank Kaminsky, who had 13 points off the bench on Wednesday. “We know it all starts with our defense and our talk and let it lead to offense. When (the bench) comes in, gets stops, pushes the ball and scores, it looks like we're doing a great job.
“It's been so much fun so far this season — the energy's been great and our team has been doing great. Hopefully, we can keep that up for a long time.”
Marco Belinelli also had 13 points off the bench on Wednesday and Spencer Hawes added 11.
The Hornets have listed center Roy Hibbert as probable for the game on Friday. He has missed the past five games with a sore right knee. Hibbert began the season as the starting center and Cody Zeller has moved into that spot since the injury.
The Raptors have been without center Jonas Valanciunas for the past two games with a contusion on his left knee and is listed as day to day.
Lucas Nogueira and Jakob Poeltl have been filling in.
“Lucas was a plus-30. That was huge for us (Wednesday), coming off the bench and giving us a big plug like that,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “The other night I thought Jakob outplayed him, (Wednesday) it was Lucas' night, and that's probably the way it's going to be. A two-headed monster with those guys until (Valanciunas) gets back in.”
Raptors guard/forward Terrence Ross was a late scratch on Wednesday after he sprained his right index finger in practice on Tuesday. He is listed as day to day.