Game Preview: Raptors at Hornets
Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
The Raptors make their second trip of the season to Charlotte to face the Hornets on Friday night. Toronto is in Charlotte after having a four-game winning streak snapped in Philadelphia. The Hornets snapped a five-game losing streak with a victory against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.
Tip-off: 7 P.M. ET
Broadcast Info: TSN1, TSN4 / SN590
The last meeting
In the first meeting between these two teams, the Raptors earned a close 113-111 comeback victory. Kemba Walker scored 40 points, but DeMar DeRozan had 10 of his team-high 34 points in the fourth quarter to help his team to the win.
Although the Raptors led by as many as 16 points in the first half, they were outscored 38-21 by the Hornets in the third quarter to turn a 14-point halftime lead into a three-point deficit heading into the fourth.
Walker shot 12-for-19 from the floor for his 40 points, including 7-for-12 from beyond the arc as Toronto guards were at a loss for how to slow him. In addition to DeRozan’s big night, Kyle Lowry had a 19-point, eight-rebound, six-assist, two-steal performance for Toronto.
Bumps and Bruises
The Raptors had the day off in Charlotte following a back-to-back in Brooklyn and Philadelphia and they definitely needed it. At the midway point of the season bumps and bruises are a reality that every team is dealing with, but Toronto had an especially rough dose over their previous two games. With Patrick Patterson already missing eight of the last 10 games with a sore left knee, the Raptors sat Kyle Lowry to rest various bumps and bruises in a victory against the Nets. In the first quarter, they lost Lucas Nogueira after he took a hit to the face and had to undergo the NBA concussion protocol where blurred vision did not allow him to return.
Patterson and Nogueira both sat Toronto’s loss against Philadelphia. The bad luck didn’t stop for the Raptors as DeMarre Carroll fell in the paint and was struck in the head by teammate Pascal Siakam’s knee. Although Carroll was cleared by doctors, he did not return to the floor with a sore neck. With Toronto not practicing on Thursday, the availability of Carroll, Patterson and Nogueira for Friday’s game is not known.
Sullinger makes Raptors debut
Jared Sullinger had to wait a long time to log his first minutes as a Toronto Raptors player. After signing with the team during the offseason, then undergoing foot surgery days before the 2016-17 campaign tipped off, Sullinger has spent his days rehabbing and working his way back. Wednesday’s loss against Philadelphia marked his Raptors debut as he played 14 minutes against the Sixers. Playing with a minute restriction, Sullinger scored eight points and grabbed three rebounds in his 14 minutes, and the energy he can bring was immediately apparent when he checked into the game.
“It was exciting,” Kyle Lowry said of Sullinger’s return to the court. “It was good to get him out there. We’ve got to get him back in some game-playing shape. I’m sure it’s going to continue to get better and we’ll continue to get him back and [find some] rhythm.”
A season ago, DeMarre Carroll went through a similar situation to Sullinger when he missed much of his first season in Toronto after rehabbing following knee surgery. Now that Carroll is finding his place with the team on both ends of the floor, he’s been helping Sullinger stay positive.
“[He’s helped me with the process],” Sullinger said. “Just the process of trying to learn the game, learn the team and understand where my shots and where I can help this team. DeMarre has been a great help. “
The fast friendship between the two Raptors teammates has an interesting beginning that predates their Raptors tenure.
“We go back to the time I flagrant fouled him my second season in the NBA,” Sullinger revealed. “He was going for a fast break and we talk about that all the time, how we didn't like each other for a little bit. For him to come in and help me out day by day, just understanding where he came from last year and what he had to go through, that’s big time to have somebody like that in your corner.”