Toronto has lost six of their last seven and begin which included their loss against the Cavaliers 120-112. The win allowed Cleveland to move up in the standings, where they replaced Toronto as the second seed in the Eastern conference. That game didn’t go without incidence either, as extra salt in the wound, Valanciunas was given a flagrant foul against Cavs superstar LeBrom James which could result in a suspension. But the Raps should not be so hard on themselves, since January 15th the Cavaliers have been the best team in the NBA, with a 20-4 record, emerging as the best offensive team in the league and a top-10 defensive club too. The Raps played but just fell short so now they need to tighten up their defence and bring their A-game.
Friday, March 6
Toronto Raptors (38-23) at Charlotte Hornets (26-33)
The Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Hornets meet Friday night at the Time Warner Cable Arena to kick off a 3 game road trip for the Raps. A key piece in Toronto’s offence, Kyle Lowry, after sitting out three games to rest some nagging injuries, might be back on the court Friday. Media reports out of Toronto today are saying that Lowry is getting closer to returning to the lineup for the Raptors and that could be just the tonic the team needs to get back in shape. The team didn’t have formal practice on Thursday, but Lowry worked out on his own and told local media that he’s making progress. He will travel with the team for the road trip and could make his comeback in any of those games. Lowry has been out since February 27th where he played 19 minutes against the Golden State Warriors.
Before the Cleveland they had a win against the bottom dwelling 76ers which raised morale in the dressing room. Before that game, commenting on their recent losing streak Toronto coach Dwayne Casey said, “Offensively, I think confidence is the No. 1 thing. Playing with confidence, shooting the ball with confidence, [and] getting back to where we were moving the ball and sharing the ball—quick decisions, whether it’s driving it or shooting it. I truly believe once we get out of this funk we’re in the offence is going to come back. We’ve got too many good players to miss the shots we’re missing.”
Despite the losses, Toronto’s defence has been better. Though the Raptors gave up 103 points (on 52.6 percent shooting) to a team of minor players in Philly, the Raps had been better at locking games down of late. Even in their five-game losing streak (which included blowout losses to Houston and Golden State) Casey’s team had inched back to the middle of the pack in many defensive categories. When you look at their numbers they also do not look as bad: they are averaging 104.6 points on 45.5 percent shooting and are allowing 100.9 points on 45.9 percent shooting which means they should win more than lose. DeMar DeRozan is averaging 18.4 points and 4.3 rebounds and Louis Williams is averaging 15.5 points and two assists. Jonas Valanciunas is getting 8.7 rebounds and Greivis Vasquez is chipping in 3.8 assists. The change is that Toronto is allowing 48.9 percent shooting in their last five games and 100-plus points in five of their last six games. Those are the small margins in which they are losing. A little tightening up and they can improve their record on the road, and now is the time to do it starting with the Hornets.
Charlotte will try to keep rolling after winning three games in a row. Mo Williams and Al Jefferson are on their game and Gerald Henderson along with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are adding in assists and rebounds consistently. The Hornets are back in the playoff race and seeded eighth in the East. This should be a pretty even match up and it all depends on who wants it more, does Toronto was to stop slipping or does Charlotte want to lock into a playoff spot. We think that even though the Raptors games has been stalled, stuck in the mud, they are closer to being on track than it might appear, so if they can get going against the Hornets on Friday, the rest of the road trip might go smoothly.
Our Pick: Raptors over Hornets, 115-102