Game On: Hornets @ Raptors
The Hornets look to go 2-0 on their most recent road trip, as they face off on the new look Toronto Raptors, who feature the recently acquired Schwan-favorite Rudy Gay and two bigs who have just returned from injury in Jonas Valanciunas and Andrea Bargnani. If they want to walk out of Canada undefeated this season, then they will have to do the following:
1. Keep Rudy Gay Out of Foul Trouble
Yeah, you read that right. The number one key to the game has more to do with Toronto than it does the Hornets. As we saw just a few short weeks ago, when the Hornets went into Memphis and beat the Grizzlies, Rudy Gay is the rare NBA player who has the potential to be the game MVP for either team and this year he is playing far better for the opponent. Since coming to Toronto, he is putting up 24 points, but he is taking 22 shots and the Raptors are nearly 8 points per 100 possessions worse when he is on the court than when he is off. He has improved their rebounding dramatically, but that is it. Literally every other category is down when Gay is on the court. He plays 40 minutes per game since coming to Toronto, so all the Hornets have to do is hang on for those 8 minutes that Rudy is off the court and they should walk out of Toronto with a victory.
2. Attack the Paint
The Raptors are bottom six in shots blocked and are #1 in fouls committed. Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas can disrupt some shots in the paint from time to time but they (along with Aaron Gray) have horrible foul per minute numbers and are far more likely to send you to the line than send your ball into the stands. Gordon, and even Ryan Anderson, need to attack the paint early and often rather than just settling for shots from the perimeter.
3. Play Vasquez Off the Ball More Often
Greivis put up big numbers the last time these two met, going for 20 and 14, but nearly 80% of those numbers came against Jose Calderon as Monty pulled Vasquez when Lowry came in the game. Toronto kept Lowry in the game late and through overtime and Vasquez couldn’t hide from him then, and the result was that Vasquez had 4 of his 6 turnovers in the 16 minutes that Lowry covered him. Now that Calderon is gone, Greivis will have to go head-to-head with Lowry for most of the game and that could mean trouble because Lowry is so much quicker and stronger, which makes it hard for Vasquez to get the Hornets into their offense. The solution is to play Vasquez off the ball more and let Gordon initiate more while Vasquez spots up or waits for the kick out after Gordon has broken down the defense and Lowry is off of him, helping somewhere else. When Vasquez is running the offense, expect Lowry to go under nearly every screen and use his quickness to meet Vasquez on the other side of it. If that is the case, Greivis has to be able to make him pay by hitting long jumpers.