Preview: Hornets are in Tampa to face off against Raptors

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What: Charlotte Hornets (6-6) at Toronto Raptors (2-8)

When: 7:30 pm EST

Where: Amalie Arena; Tampa, Fla.

How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

The Charlotte Hornets’ four-game win-streak came to an abrupt end with a poor showing last night against the Dallas Mavericks, but thankfully they have a chance to bounce back quickly tonight against a shockingly-bad Toronto Raptors squad.

The Raptors lost two key pieces from last year; Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol anchored their defense and Aron Baynes alone has not been able to replace their production. Nick Nurse had Toronto playing the second-best defense in the NBA in 2019-2020, but through 10 games this season they allow 113.6 points per 100 possessions, placing them in the 23rd percentile via Cleaning The Glass. OG Anunoby was a popular Most Improved Player candidate prior to the season, but his offensive skillset hasn’t taken “the leap” yet.

Toronto’s biggest issue this year has been the underwhelming play of Pascal Siakam. Coming off of a second-team all-NBA selection, Siakam is averaging 20.4 points per game on 31.0 percent from deep with one a 26.7 percent usage rate that lands him in the 94th percentile, per Cleaning The Glass. He’s only shooting 62 percent at the rim right now and his defensive impact metrics have gone down. It seems like the Raptors had a small margin of error after losing two important big men, and right now they’re just not cutting it. It’s hard to believe a team with Siakam and Kyle Lowry that’s coached by Nurse will be this bad for much longer, though.

The Raptors should be all set on the injury front; just Patrick McCaw (knee) will be out tonight.

The Hornets didn’t play bad defense yesterday, but their offense was horrible, though shots not falling was probably a big part of that. There has been one lasting problem for the Hornets’ offense in the early-going:

The Hornets’ offense has a tendency to stall out and turn into a grind, especially when Gordon Hayward isn’t playing well. Even with the new additions to the team and their improved ball movement (first in the NBA with a 73.8 assist percentage), they still don’t have enough shot-creation in the half-court to compete on a consistent basis. Devonte’ Graham and PJ Washington’s shooting struggles don’t help, but again, Hayward is the only high-level shot-creator on the roster and he can’t be—nor should he have to be—perfect every single night. This problem was evident earlier in the year, but it seems to have reared its head again last night.

Here are some positive vibes for you all; Hayward did leave the game early last night with a hip injury, but he made the trip to Tampa to play the team from Canada. Hayward (left hip strain) is probable for tonight’s game. Now, let’s take a collective sigh of relief.

What to expect out of this game is beyond me. Toronto has been bad, but they’re not actually bad, so maybe they right the ship tonight? It’s gotta happen eventually. If the Hornets can hit shots tonight and keep up the intensity on defense they should be able to win, but if Hayward doesn’t play the chances of that happening drop significantly.