NBA Friday Night Picks: Charlotte Hornets at Toronto Raptors

You should have passed instead of puffed.
You should have passed instead of puffed.

Charlotte Hornets at Toronto Raptors
Time: 6:30 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: TOR -7
Total: 197.5

Betting odds c/o 5dimes

The 20-13 Toronto Raptors are 10-5 at home where it will host the Charlotte Hornets as 7-point favorites for the game which will air at 6:30 Central on NBA League Pass.

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The Raptors have won six of its last 10 games and are currently seeded No. 3 in the Eastern Conference. Toronto most recently knocked off the Washington Wizards 94-91 last night. DeMar DeRozan had another huge game with 34 points including 15 of 15 from the free throw line.

DeRozan and point guard Kyle Lowry make up one of the league’s best backcourts. Lowry, a 2015 starting All-Star, struggled in the game—but the Raptors got an additional 30 points from its bench with Terrance Ross and Bismack Biyombo both scoring in double-figures.

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DeMarre Carroll is back from injury but he has yet to really hit his groove. Over his first three contest back he has shot 9 of 26 from the field to average 8.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Last season in Atlanta he posted averages of 12.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals/blocks per game while playing a key role in Atlanta’s stingy perimeter defense.

The Raptors expect a big season from its only major free agent addition, and hitting his threes is where it must start. He knocked down nearly 40 percent a season ago while attempting over four per game.  Carroll is necessary to have a chance against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as he is one of the few defensive talents with both the strength and speed to bother James.  In some senses, he is under-rated, but basketball purists recognize the importance of a lockdown defender type like Carroll.

The Raptors get 43.5 points per game from its starting backcourt, but it must get more production on a consistent basis from Terrance Ross.

The Raps No. 3 and No. 5 scoring options are defensive-minded rugged big men Luis Scola and Jonas Valanciunas, and Toronto averages just 99.8 points per game this season. The Raptors do a lot of things well, and keep its turnovers down (12.8 per game), but it must generate more offense.

The Raptors do hold opponents however to just 96.4 points per game and have the fourth-best point differential in the Eastern Conference. One might expect a run from the Boston Celtics who rank No. 2 in point differential but are just 18-14 on the year.

The Hornets have been a bit of a surprise team after losing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the season.

That is mostly because newly acquired Nicolas Batum has been so brilliant.

He has revolutionized himself as a top-option type of offensive talent in averaging 16.3 points per game. Batum has continued his strong defensive work while averaging 6.6 rebounds and over five assists per game. This was a level of play we suspected he had given his role in French national games, but he had yet to really bring his full skill set out while playing on a talented Portland Trail Blazers team.  Batum is battling a toe injury but is expected to play.

Batum and Kemba Walker form a potent duo, with Walker averaging 18.9 points and five assists per game. Walker is hitting 36.8 percent on 4.4 three-point attempts per game while also doing a reasonably good job of getting to the line at 4.8 free throw attempts per game.

Batum is hitting 36 percent of his 5.9 three-point field goal attempts per game and posting the highest adjusted field goal percentage on the team (51 percent).

The biggest disappointment for Charlotte has been Al Jefferson, who was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policies. Even prior to that, he was struggling. Jefferson is averaging just 12.5 points in 25 minutes a game this year.  It only got worse with him now expected to spend six weeks rehabbing a knee injury.

It has required some bigger nights from reserve Jeremy Lin, and Marvin Williams has become an effective stretch-4 for Charlotte. It would just help if its best post threat Jefferson were performing up to his typical career levels.  Lin is also nursing an ankle injury but is expected to play. The Hornets seem good enough to weather the injury bug, but this team would be considerably better if Jefferson rehabs to full strength and returns to the block.

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