Raptors' march toward 60 wins continues vs. Hornets
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TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors will be trying to take another step on what they hope is a march to their first 60-win season Sunday against the Charlotte Hornets, who are just trying to keep their fading playoff hopes alive.
The odds would appear to be in Toronto's favor in the game at the Air Canada Centre.
The Raptors have won all three meetings this season. Two of them were in Charlotte, where the Raptors won 123-103 on Feb. 11 in the most recent encounter.
After defeating the Washington Wizards 102-95 on Friday night, the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors (44-17) need to finish the season 16-5 to reach 60 wins.
The Hornets (28-35), who have lost two in a row after winning five straight, are 10th in the Eastern Conference, two spots removed from a playoff position.
Charlotte appeared to have their game Friday under control until a fourth-quarter collapse in which they were outscored 36-19 by the Philadelphia 76ers, who went on to win 110-99.
"We made so many mistakes and they capitalized," said guard Kemba Walker, who led the Hornets with 31 points. "We've got to play better. We've got to finish games better."
Hornets coach Steve Clifford said, "It was effort plays (in the last few minutes) as much as anything, which is what they're really good at. They use their size and their athleticism and they turned up their defense. As much as anything, it was offensive rebounds and we made a couple coverage mistakes. Give them credit."
Hornets forward Cody Zeller sat out Friday with a sore left knee and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored nine points after he missed a game with a sore hamstring.
The Raptors, meanwhile, once again had a solid outing Friday from their bench, which held a 50-15 advantage over the Wizards' reserves.
C.J. Miles scored 20 points off the bench for the Raptors, who were led DeMar DeRozan's 23.
"We take a lot of pride in coming off that bench and changing games," said Miles, who scored 11 points in the second half. "We've been calling ourselves the best bench in the league all year and I don't think anybody can take that from us."
Miles was 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
"We needed every one of them," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said after the game Friday. "Tonight was one of those nights where it was a struggle. Both teams were playing physical basketball, playoff-style basketball, and it was hard. It was hard to score."
Miles said his defensive effort gave him the most satisfaction.
"Just the effort of being in the right spots," he said. "Like I said, I got some fouls, but at least they are not buckets. It will adjust as you continue to play at that pace at that end, too."
The Raptors were without forward OG Anunoby, who left the game Wednesday with a sprained right ankle. The team listed him as out of the game for Sunday.
Norman Powell started in his place Friday and was ineffective.
"We have some options and it will probably be fluid," Casey said hen discussing how to replace Anunoby. "It will probably be a lot of different people, a lot of different matchups to look at. It will change from game to game and maybe from half to half."
Powell made his first start since Nov. 12 in Boston. He was injured during that game. Anunoby replaced him for the next game in Houston and has been the starter since.
Powell was 0 of 2 and had one rebound against the Wizards in 17 minutes. He lost some of his potential playing time to Malcolm Miller, who made a 3-pointer and played effective defense in seven minutes.
Updated March 3, 2018