The 8th seed, in the Eastern Conference of the NBA, is still very much up for grabs with just three games remaining in the season.
The Charlotte Hornets, a team with an outside shot at a playoff spot, knocked off the Eastern Conference’s second-best team the Toronto Raptors 113-111 on Friday night. This was the second close game between these two teams in the last 12 days.
On March 24th, 2019, it was a buzzer beater from midcourt by Jeremy Lamb giving the Hornets a 115-114 victory in Toronto. This time it was Jeremy Lamb again hitting a late three-pointer from 27 feet out to keep the Hornets playoff hopes alive.
The Hornets got 22 points from both Jeremy Lamb and Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky also recorded 13 rebounds.
Kemba Walker scored 29 points leading the Hornets in the winning homecourt effort. The Raptors, who are now 56-24, got 29 points from Kawhi Leonard, 16 points and 11 assists from Kyle Lowry, and Serge Ibaka scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
The Hornets have to just win to close out the season as they are now 1 game back of the Miami Heat who are 9th in the East.
The 8th seed is currently held by the Nets who are two games ahead of the Hornets. Miami, after losing to the Timberwolves Friday night 111-109, is on a three-game losing streak and have slipped out of the playoff race.
The Nets have a tough task Saturday night against the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks and are themselves on a two-game losing streak.
Here are three talking points from the game last night between the Raptors and Hornets:
#3 Toronto’s Bench Woes
The Raptors bench was a strong factor in most games last year. However, this season, with Pascal Siakam’s meteoric rise to starter and perhaps the NBA’s MIP, the bench has been inconsistent.
The Raptors bench has also been minus Jacob Poeltl this season who was traded to the Spurs in the Kawhi Leonard deal. Fred Vanvleet has been injured at times and inconsistent this year.
Jonas Valanciunas could have helped when he was relegated to bench duties but got hurt in December 2018 and then was traded to the Grizzlies.
With Marc Gasol, Jeremy Lin, and Jodie Meeks all joining the team via trade or through late-season signings, the Toronto bench has been remade mid-season.
Friday night the Raptors bench was outscored 59-38 by the Hornets. Coming into this season, the Raptors were considered a deep team but while they have recorded 56 wins their bench production could be a hindrance in the playoffs.