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Feb 6, 2024 7:22 pm

Hornets, Raptors trying to end extended funks

brandon miller

The Toronto Raptors will come across a team that’s in a similarly miserable shape when they take on the host Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night.

The Raptors have lost three in a row, including 138-100 on Monday night at the New Orleans Pelicans, to add to a terrible stretch. Toronto has lost eight of its last nine games.

Charlotte carries an eight-game losing streak, with its latest comeback falling short in a 124-118 defeat to the visiting Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.

The Hornets have dropped their last seven home games, though they already own a home victory against Toronto, winning 119-116 on Dec. 8. Gordon Hayward had 24 points in that game, but he is questionable Wednesday due to a calf injury.

The Raptors look different than in December as well. Pascal Siakam, who has torched the Hornets in the past, has been traded. He had a big role for the Indiana Pacers when they won Sunday night in Charlotte. Toronto’s Scottie Barnes had 31 points in the season’s first meeting with the Hornets.

Toronto won 114-99 in a rematch at home Dec. 18.

Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic said his team’s performance in New Orleans was unacceptable. Even rookie Gradey Dick’s career-best 22 points failed to be a bright spot.

“Fatigue is part of this league,” Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic said. “This is a league that there are no excuses.”

Toronto forward RJ Barrett (knee) is likely to play Wednesday after sitting out Monday as part of load management. Barrett has averaged 21.1 points and 7.1 rebounds in 14 games since joining Toronto in a trade from the New York Knicks.

For the Hornets, Brandon Miller keeps adding to an impressive rookie season. He had 33 points against the Lakers, pushing his total across the past five games to 146 points. That’s the most for a rookie in any five-game span this season.

“Hats off to my teammates for coming in every day and building my confidence,” Miller said. “It’s not just me. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t take those shots.”

He’s the first rookie in franchise history with back-to-back games of 30 or more points. He wants to do more.

“It’s still growing,” Miller said. “I want to come in every day and get better.”

Clifford said Miller continues to show development in numerous areas. Because of the trade of Terry Rozier (21 points, 13 assists in the December matchup with Toronto) and injuries to other players, Miller has been thrust into a larger role.

“He figures things out. He just does things that you don’t teach,” Clifford said, noting that there’s a play-making aspect to Miller’s game that will eventually blossom. “He can really pass. Right now, we need him to score and that’s what’s he’s doing.”

The Hornets tend to fall into holes in the first halves of games, with shoddy defense largely responsible. Miller said the solution would be to “come out with more energy.”

Clifford said there are stretches when the Hornets can be effective defensively.

“We held (the Lakers) to 50 in the second half, so against that team is really good,” Clifford said.

–Field Level Media

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