Mon, 08 Mar 2021

Raptors and Hornets tee it up again in Tampa

Field Level Media
16 Jan 2021, 06:40 GMT+10

The Toronto Raptors host the Charlotte Hornets for the second time in three days Saturday night in Tampa, Fla.

The Raptors survived a 12-point fourth quarter in Thursday's initial encounter and held on to win, 111-108.

"We were taking a little too long to get started against (their zone)," Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. "(The offense) should have been popping a little bit more. We were maybe overanalyzing what we were looking for rather than just swinging, driving, getting into a gap and punching it into the paint. So, we're going to have be ready for a lot of zone (on Saturday)."

The win was just the second for Toronto in its last seven outings, and the Raptors' second at their temporary home. They are playing in Florida due to COVID-19 travel restrictions into Canada.

The standout for Toronto on Thursday was center Chris Boucher, who came off the bench to score 25 points, grab 10 rebounds and block two shots.

"With the starters, bring the energy, do the hustle plays, kind of get them open: Fred (VanVleet), Kyle (Lowry) Pascal (Siakam), play off of them," Boucher said, describing his different roles. "With the second group, find a way to get us going."

The four-year veteran Boucher is averaging career highs across the board, most notably scoring and rebounding figures of 15.3 and 6.5 per game. His role was especially pronounced Thursday with Alex Len out due to personal reasons.

For Charlotte, Saturday's rematch is an opportunity to pull out of a two-game losing skid after having won the previous four straight.

The Hornets dropped a 104-93 decision on Wednesday against Dallas, just the second time all season Charlotte failed to score in triple digits.

Although the Hornets posted right around their season scoring average on Thursday, their defense was most critical to turning a would-be blowout into a nail-biter.

"I thought our defense was fantastic in the second half," coach James Borrego said. "That's what got us back in the game."

Terry Rozier and P.J. Washington, who scored 22 and 20 points, respectively, were also central to the defensive efforts with two steals by Rozier and two blocked shots by Washington.

Charlotte played without leading scorer Gordon Hayward on Thursday due to a hip injury. He's questionable to face Toronto.

The veteran Hayward's 22.0 points per game lead a young Hornets corps that includes rookie LaMelo Ball. Ball has been a spark for Charlotte coming off the bench, averaging 11.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.

He provided 14 points, 11 assists and three steals against Toronto. Following their matchup on Wednesday, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle touted Ball as the early front-runner for this season's Rookie of the Year award.

Ball is one of five Hornets currently averaging double figures in scoring, along with Hayward, Rozier, Washington and Devonte' Graham. Six Raptors come into Saturday's matchup scoring in double figures: VanVleet, Siakam, Lowry, Boucher, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell.

--Field Level Media

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