Key Matchup vs. Toronto Raptors: Dwight Howard vs. Jonas Valančiūnas
A tough matchup with the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors awaits the Hornets on the final leg of their road trip as they'll look to snap a two-game skid on Sunday evening.
Charlotte will need a bounce-back performance from star center Dwight Howard, who was limited to just six points and six rebounds in 25 minutes on Friday night in Philadelphia because of foul trouble. One of just three active NBA players averaging at least 15.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 1.0 block this season, Howard also ranks tied for fifth in the league in screen assists per game (4.3).
The Hornets big man will be lined up in the paint with Jonas Valančiūnas, who is now in sixth NBA season out of Lithuania. Although averaging a modest 11.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per outing, Valančiūnas has added a three-point shot to his game as evidenced by a conversion rate of 22-of-47 this season (46.8%; 1-of-4 from long range in five previous seasons combined).
Valančiūnas knocked down a pair of long balls in Charlotte on Feb. 11 and the Hornets can't afford to let him get comfortable from distance with other dangerous Toronto scorers already on the perimeter. Howard will need to stay disciplined, control the glass and limit any easy shots from Valančiūnas on the offensive end in the season-series finale between these teams.