3 matchups that will decide winner of two-game series vs Hornets

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The Raptors could turn their season around in two straight games against the Hornets.

The Toronto Raptors appeared to turn over a new leaf on their West Coast road trip, but a few unlucky bounces of the ball against the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers turned a potential three-game winning streak into a 1-2 stretch that threw them down to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

Toronto’s next two games will be back in their temporary home in Tampa, as they will take on a Charlotte Hornets team that has surprised many who thought they would be mired in a 2-8 start at the beginning of the season. The Raptors might be able to get back on track if they win these matchups.

These three matchups will determine if the Raptors get back on track or sink to 2-10

3. LaMelo Ball vs Toronto’s second unit

The Raptors can’t let LaMelo Ball take advantage of their bench.

Ball, who was picked No. 3 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, has yet to start a game in the NBA, but his style of play has already won him plenty of praise, averaging 12.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game. Ball’s 6-6 frame and mesmerizing passing ability make him a box office attraction, and he could be eyeing Toronto’s suspect bench defense as a group that he could pad his stats against. Toronto’s defense has cooled off after a very hot start, and they’ll need to play one of their best games all year since Ball is just starting to get a feel for how to consistently create his own shot in the NBA.

When Toronto takes Devonte Graham and Terry Rozier out to let Ball run the show against the backups, expect Norman Powell to be matched up against Ball for a majority of his time on the floor. Charlotte might have some intriguing studs like Ball, but their depth is severely lacking on the offensive side of the ball, and an off night from their highlight-reel young point guard could send this offense into complete disarray.

With Charlotte sporting a top-10 defense, Toronto will need to grind out victories over the next few days, and Powell slowing down Ball by getting right in his face and forcing turnovers will limit how good they can be on offense