Five thoughts on Game 29: Raptors 129, Hornets 111

The Toronto Raptors went into Charlotte last night and beat the Hornets rather easily, it seems. I missed the game as I was attending a Christmas party (it is that time of year!) but I’ve got a few quick thoughts on the result anyway!

Are the Hornets a Toronto Raptors nemesis?

My selective memory tells me that the Raptors have had trouble beating the Hornets in recent years, especially in Charlotte. And yet I looked up the records this morning, and that’s not really the case; going in to last night’s game the Raptors were 7-5 vs. the Hornets since Charlotte retook the Hornets name name ahead of the 2014-15 season. Toronto did have a losing record in Charlotte (2-3) before last night’s win… but it does seem the memory plays tricks, as it felt to me like they hadn’t won in Charlotte in years. Ah well! The Raps are now 2-0 against Charlotte on the year, both by double digits, so perhaps the imaginary monkey is off their backs.

Can OG Anunoby shoot?

That was definitely a question coming out of the draft. Sure, the Raptors grabbing Anunoby at 23 was considered a smart move; he was an athletic defender and it was only injury that made him fall that low in the draft. But there were definitely questions about his shot. (And, honestly, looking at his motion, that’s no surprise; he has wonky follow-through that looks like he’s pushing the ball at the rim.) BUT. The kid is shooting 46.5% on 3.0 three-point field goals per game. He was 6-7 last night! That’s completely unexpected.

Drafting OG at 23 is no longer considered a smart move, as far as I’m concerned. It was a steal.

Games like this are so good for Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan

Part of the reason the Golden State Warriors have been so successful in the playoffs the past three years has been that they blow out so many opponents in the regular season, that Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green get extra rest. That rest pays dividends in the playoffs. This Raptors team will never be the Warriors, but they are generating a few more easy wins than in past seasons, and that means extra rest for the backcourt stars. Lowry played 24 minutes last night; DeRozan, 29.

Considering how exhausted these two have looked in the playoffs the past three years, that is great news.

Serge Ibaka is having a renaissance

Ibaka scored a season high 24 last night, on another strong shooting performance (11-16, 2-2 from three-point range). In the Raptors last 11 games (Serge missed one to rest his knee) he’s shooting 55%, 51% on three-pointers (on 4.3 attempts per game!) and is up to 6.4 rebounds per game. The Raptors are also 10-1 over that time period. His net rating of 20.6 is fantastic (meaning the Raptors are scoring 20 points more per 100 possessions that their opponents when he’s on the floor).

I don’t know if this is just him finally finding his groove with Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas, or the extra rest built in to the schedule, or what, but if he can keep this up, the Raptors will continue to be impressive.

Can the Raptors finally close the gap on Boston?

Winners of 10 of their last 11 games, the Raptors should, in theory, be climbing the standings. The problem is that Boston and Cleveland have been playing almost as well. Boston remains 2.5 games up, and although the Raps are technically ahead of Cleveland for the moment in terms of winning percentage, the Cavs have won 2 more games than the Raptors. Boston has won its last 2 after a mediocre 4-4 stretch, and Cleveland, despite losing to the Bucks the other night, have won 8 of 10. Still, if the Raptors can continue to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, then the stretch run for top seeding should be exciting!

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The Raps have a rare Thursday night game tonight, in Philadelphia against the 76ers. Joel Embiid is scheduled to sit out, which, while good news for the Raptors, is bad news, fan-wise, as he’s yet to play the Raptors and we all want to see him out there! This Philly team has struggled of late, losers of 8 of 10, but they’re rested while the Raptors come in having played last night. Hopefully that extra rest Kyle and DeMar got against Charlotte will serve them well tonight!

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