Raptors look to get back on track against Hornets tonight on TSN
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For a Raptors team struggling to find consistency, pulling even in the season series with the lowly Hornets seems like a must.
Four different players had at least 20 points in Charlotte’s 119-116 win over the Raptors two Fridays ago, spoiling a triple-double from Scottie Barnes in what may have been his best game of the season thus far. The Raps trailed by double digits to open the fourth quarter and fought back to take the lead, only to see it slip away in the final minutes.
The Hornets shot 55.7 per cent from the field, went 13-25 from three-point land and made 18 of their 20 free throws en route to the win, which was just their fourth in 12 games.
“They made some tough shots down the stretch,” Barnes said of the Hornets, acknowledging his team needed to get off to a better start.
“We have to come and play with some urgency from the beginning and lock in mentally."
"Create stops and let that lead us to transition on the offensive end," he said.
Toronto lost four straight games to open the month of December but got back into the win column last Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks thanks to 33 points from Pascal Siakam. However, the Raptors were not able to carry their momentum for long as Atlanta took the second meeting in three days at Scotiabank Arena in lopsided fashion, winning 125-104.
"I feel like our communication was off," said Barnes. "They got a lot of easy threes where they were just walking down to threes, slipping out to threes.
"Miscommunication with the bigs [on pick-and-roll switches] and things like that. We've just got to tighten those things up. That was the main difference."
Trae Young had 38 points and 11 assists as the Hawks leapfrogged the Raptors for the 10th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, moving their record to 10-15 and dropping Toronto’s record to the same.
“We did not do a good job of containing [Young],” Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic said. “Our communication was not great tonight and when you don’t have communication, it’s hard to execute any kind of coverage or any kind of defence.”
Charlotte comes into Monday’s matchup with the fourth-worst point differential in the NBA (minus-9.3) and are allowing the fifth-most points per game (121.0). While they present the Raptors an opportunity to sort things out before the defending-champion Denver Nuggets come to town Wednesday, Toronto also ranks in the bottom half of both those categories and averages almost the same offensive output (112.5 points per game) as the Hornets (111.5).
Star point guard LaMelo Ball continues to be sidelined with an ankle sprain he suffered last month. The team has not given a firm timeline for his return.
The two teams will meet twice more in the new year with the Hornets playing host on Feb. 7 and the final meeting coming on March 3 in Toronto.