Charlotte’s Defense Has Rough Day Against Raptors

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Another solid shooting performance by the Charlotte Hornets wasn’t nearly enough to erase a tough day full of turnovers and defensive struggles in a 128-108 home loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday afternoon.

Svi Mykhailiuk poured in a career-high 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting, a career-high-tying five 3-pointers, four rebounds, five assists and two steals in the loss. Right behind him in the Hornets’ scoring department was James Bouknight, who had 21 points on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range to record back-to-back 20-point games for the first time in his career.

Toronto connected on 29-of-47 first-half attempts (61.7%) and amassed 42 paint points to roll into halftime with a 67-52 advantage. Charlotte’s offense really got going in the third, with Bouknight and Mykhailiuk combining for 13 points in the frame to make it a 12-point game entering the fourth. It didn’t matter a whole lot though, as Toronto continued to carve up the Hornets’ defense left and right to the tune of 90 total paint points in the blowout victory.

“I think they’re, like fourth in drives into the paint,” said Hornets Head Coach Steve Clifford afterwards. “The other night, I was not okay with the way we played against Chicago [on Friday]. Today, to be honest, our effort was really good. Our guys played hard. [Toronto is] playing for the playoffs. There are some tough matchups out there. I’m going to choose to look at the positives. I liked our approach. We were a little slow out of the gate, but we played really hard. Got to figure out a way to run offense against them without turning the ball over.”

Mark Williams had 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds for his second double-double in three appearances, while Théo Maledon chipped in eight points, eight rebounds and a career-high 14 assists to come within striking distance of a triple-double. Once again, Charlotte shot efficiently – 49.4% and 48.4% from 3-point range (15-of-31) – but the 18 turnovers for 28 Toronto points were a big obstacle to overcome.

Pascal Siakam amassed a game-high 36 points on 16-of-24 shooting, seven rebounds and seven assists to help Toronto clinch a Play-In Game berth with the victory. Fred VanVleet finished with 20 points and a career-high and franchise single-game record 20 assists, becoming only the second undrafted player in NBA history to have a 20-point, 20-assist game (Bob Davies, 1955).

Added Clifford, “We’ve got to be able to find a way to do something with Fred. I mean, he just dominated that game. He just crushed us. Every pick-and-roll it didn’t matter; angle, high side either scored, got fouled or they got a wide-open shot. We’ve mixed up the schemes but none of that worked. He was high intensity right from the beginning.”

The Hornets will host the Raptors again on Tuesday, April 4 starting at 7 PM ET. Follow all the action on Bally Sports Southeast and WFNZ 92.7 FM.