Raptors Cage

Game Day Preview: Raptors hope to win season series against Hornets

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As the anticipation for the Toronto Raptors’ playoff quest builds, they must first escape the wrath of a hungry Charlotte Hornets team. While the Hornets may not be seen as much of a threat to other teams, the story has been different for the Raptors as Charlotte leads the all-time series 40-28. Notwithstanding, the East is a lot stronger this year which can be a testament to how much Toronto has improved this year. Ultimately, this a great sign for the Dinos’ playoff hopes.

Speaking of the playoffs, DeMarre Carroll is rumoured to be ramping up his workouts in order to play some regular season games, rid himself of any rust and be ready to go full-force for the playoffs. The Hornets have a pretty good ‘3 and D’ guy in Nicolas Batum along with a very good point guard tandem in Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin. While the Raptors will no doubt have their work cut out for them, they’ve faced adversity all season in the absence of Carroll. However, the team has successfully clinched the second seed and recorded 50 wins for first time ever in franchise history. Behind DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, the boys from the Six will need to continue their cohesion and chemistry against the Hornets, who were able to come back from a 23 point deficit against the San Antonio Spurs and win. Yeah. They’re good. Let’s take a look at the projected starting lineups and Cage’s keys to the game.

Raptors Starting Lineup: Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, DeMar DeRozan, Luis ScolaJonas Valanciunas
Hornets Starting Lineup: Kemba Walker, Courtney Lee, Nicolas Batum, Marvin WilliamsCody Zeller

Guard Play

The guard play for both teams has been outstanding this year. Jeremy Lin has proven to be an invaluable compliment for Kemba Walker. These 2 have played exceptionally this year, averaging a combined 33 points, 8 boards, 8 assists and 2.5 steals. While those numbers don’t exactly pop out, it’s the threat of having 2 experienced floor generals who know how to run the pick-and-roll that is going to be a struggle for the Dinos. This is where the defense of Lowry and rookie sensation Norman Powell will need to be effective. While we know what we have with Lowry, Powell has been surprising all of us with his play. He led the team in scoring against the Spurs on Saturday and had some highlights like this one:

The rookie continues to impress on offence and defence. He also went coast-to-coast with this dunk as he grabbed the rebound and sprinted down the court for the slam:

Solid play from Powell and Lowry will be instrumental in getting the win tonight.

Get Jonas Involved

Hornets big man, Al Jefferson, seems to have regressed this season as his numbers are down. He’s averaging 11.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and a block. This could be a sign that Jefferson is starting to decline. While he’s only 31, he’s still on the wrong side of 30 and that’s where Jonas Valanciunas should take advantage. Sure, the Hornets have Frank Kaminsky III but he’s still a rookie and JV has more experience on the block. Cody Zeller might provide a challenge for Jonas, but I would take JV over Zeller everyday. Toronto has DeMar and Kyle, however, Jonas will need to be utilized in order for the Raps to pull off the W.

Lockdown the Perimeter

The Hornets’ precision beyond the arc has played a large part in their success this season. The team is 7th best in the league when it comes to shooting the 3 ball. They also average almost 11 treys per game, roughly quarter of their 37 made field goals every night. If the Raps can take limit the Hornets’ perimeter shots, they will have made the game much easier for themselves.

X-Factor: Norman Powell

Powell’s contribution on both ends of the court has proven to be pivotal for Toronto. He will have his hands full in guarding Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker. However, I’m positive he will be up for the challenge. He’s a fierce and aggressive guard that plays hard every night. If he can bring the intensity on the defensive side of the ball, his contributions on the offence will be icing on the cake.

 

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