In a re-match of Friday's home win, the Toronto Raptors (26-41) visit the Charlotte Bobcats (15-52) for their fourth and final meeting of the season Wednesday at 7:00pm ET.
The Raptors were robbed of a victory in Charlotte on Nov. 21 when a missed call sealed their fate in the dying seconds but they have won the previous two meetings, including a 92-78 rout of the Bobcats at the Air Canada Centre five days ago.
Toronto led by one going into the fourth quarter of that game before the Bobcats were silenced, hitting one field goal on 13 attempts in the frame.
"There's a lot of malaise going around in the NBA and we're not immuned to it," Raptors coach Dwane Casey acknowledged after practice on Tuesday. "I think going in and having a purpose, having small goals, small victories, small things you want to work on is going to be huge for us."
Trends and Tidbits
The Raptors have lost four straight games -- and six of their last seven visits -- in Charlotte.
Toronto has scored 40 or more points in the paint in eight consecutive contests, ranking third in that category over the timeframe (48.0 per game). On the season, the Raptors are 25th in the NBA, averaging 10 points fewer (38.0) in the painted area. They scored a season-high 62 points in the paint during Sunday's loss to the Heat, outscoring Miami by 24 around the rim that afternoon.
The Raptors' rookies continue to respond well to their increased playing time over the last couple weeks. Centre Jonas Valanciunas has scored in double figures in five of his last six games while Guard Terrence Ross has accomplished that feat in four of five.
Amir Johnson has recorded a double-double in three of his last four games, averaging 14.0 points and 15.0 rebounds over that span. He leads the team with 14 double-doubles this season.
What to Watch For
- Taking care of the ball
As Casey alluded to following the team's practice on Tuesday, taking care of the ball and minimizing unforced errors must be a priority against the Bobcats. The Raptors turned the ball over 20 times when these teams last met and have now generated more turnovers than assists in each of their last three games. Since Wednesday's loss in Boston they have committed 52 turnovers while accumulating just 48 assists. During that time, their opponents have compiled 74 dimes compared to just 39 miscues.
- Backcourt Blues
With Johnson and Rudy Gay carrying the load for Toronto offensively, the starting backcourt has struggled this month, shooting 28 per cent from the field and an abysmal 17 per cent from three-point range over the last four games. DeMar DeRozan -- who was playing some of the best ball of his career in February --has seen his numbers drop across the board in March, averaging just 15.1 points (down from 19.8 last month) while attempting nearly two free throws fewer per game.
Meanwhile, Kyle Lowry is coming off a scoreless outing, one of his worst as a Raptor, against the Heat and has gone ice cold from long range, where he has been a reliable contributor for most of the year. Equally as concerning, the backcourt duo has averaged a combined 6.3 assists over the past four games, as the team's offence has generally been slow and stagnant. With tough match-ups against the Bobcats' Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson -- who teamed up for 42 points in Toronto Friday -- both Lowry and DeRozan will be counted on to have bounce-back performances and run the offence in Charlotte.
Who to Watch For
- Rudy Gay
Limited by an ailing back for the first two weeks of the month, Gay has looked more like his old self in two of his best and most efficient games since joining the club. "There's good days and bad days with his back," Casey said of Gay. "I think the last couple games his back has loosened up where it's allowed him to do things in more of fluid way." The Raptors' forward has been getting the rim with increased regularity and working comfortably in the post while attempting fewer long jumpers, a crutch he had been leaning on earlier in March. The improved shot selection has translated to a 61 per cent success rate from the floor over the past two games despite his continued struggles from beyond the arch, where he is just eight for his last 37 attempts. Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Bobcats defence proved to be no match for Gay last week when the former Grizzly dropped 28 points on 16 shots.
- Gerald Henderson
After beginning the game 1-for-8 in Toronto on Friday Henderson caught fire, hitting six of his next seven shots and leading a third-quarter run that kept the Bobcats in striking distance before a fourth-quarter drought did them in. Henderson finished with 22 points that night and has now scored 20 or more in four of his last six games, reaching double figures in nine consecutive. On average, he has attempted 6.1 free throws per game in March, good for 10th in the league during that stretch.
Andrea Bargnani (right elbow) - Out
Ramon Sessions (MCL sprain) - Out
DeSagana Diop (right knee) - Questionable