Key Matchup vs. Toronto Raptors: Nicolas Batum vs. OG Anunoby
The short-handed Hornets without Kemba Walker (left shoulder contusion) will need to get some big performances elsewhere when they kick off a two-game road trip against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.
Since returning from a six-week absence on Nov. 15 (elbow), Nicolas Batum has slowly been rounding into form for the Hornets, although missed one game last week following a minor setback. The Frenchman is averaging 10.2 points on 37.9 percent shooting, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in six outings this season, while also converting 92.3 percent of his attempts from the free-throw line.
With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist expected to guard Toronto’s leading-scorer, DeMar DeRozan, Batum will likely be paired up with small forward OG Anunoby. The first-year pro from Indiana University has started the last seven games for the Raptors, posting averages of 8.4 points on 62.2 percent shooting (43.5 percent from three-point range) and 1.1 rebounds across 22.0 minutes per appearance.
The Raptors haven’t asked the 20-year-old Anunoby to do too much this season, although he’s made a significant impact as evidenced by his 12.6 net rating (second-best mark on the team). With Walker sidelined, look for Batum to be Charlotte’s main offensive facilitator and hopefully take advantage of a favorable matchup against the young Anunoby.