The Charlotte Hornets rallied late to win their past two games, but that could be more difficult to do when they visit the NBA champion Toronto Raptors on Monday night.
The Raptors, meanwhile, used strong defense against the oppositions’ top scorers to go 3-2 on a road trip against Western Conference teams without injured Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka.
The Raptors finished the trip Saturday with a 110-102 loss to the Dallas Mavericks after getting within two points with 2:08 to play on a layup by Noman Powell. But Luka Doncic, who had 26 points, sank a floater and Seth Curry made two free throws as Dallas pulled away.
“They are a good team and they played some good defense but I think at stretches we kind of found ourselves in a little mud and I think that had to do with the long road trip,” said Powell, who scored a season-best 26 points. “Guys were ready to get home, but I think we stayed with it and fought to the end.”
Devonte’ Graham hit his career-best ninth 3-point shot of the game Saturday with 2.8 seconds to play as the Hornets defeated the Knicks 103-102 in the opener of a four-game trip.
The Hornets defeated the Detroit Pistons 109-106 Friday at home on Malik Monk‘s buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Charlotte lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 119-117 on Wednesday on a layup by Ja Morant with 0.7 seconds left.
The Hornets are learning to play without star guard Kemba Walker, who went to the Boston Celtics on a sign-and-trade in the offseason.
Walker had been the key to the Hornets’ offense for the past several seasons. They are compensating for his loss with guards Terry Rozier — who came from Boston in the trade for Walker — Graham and Monk.
“Our goal is to play with multiple ball-handlers, multiple playmakers,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “It didn’t matter who had the ball, we had three decision-makers who could put pressure on the rim, shoot the 3-ball and make plays for others. That’s tough to guard anytime you put that type of pressure on the defense.”
The Hornets got three points, nine rebounds, six assists and 29 minutes from Nicolas Batum on Saturday in his return from a fractured finger. Dwayne Bacon did not play for the third straight game because of a sore knee.
The Raptors were showing signs of fatigue Saturday and Pascal Siakam had an off night with 15 points on 6-for-24 shooting with five turnovers.
–Field Level Media