Hornets-Raptors Betting Preview: Is Charlotte’s Early Success Sustainable?

Hornets-Raptors Betting Preview: Is Charlotte’s Early Success Sustainable? article feature image

Photos from USAToday Sports. Pictured: Kemba Walker and Kyle Lowry.

Betting odds: Charlotte Hornets at Toronto Raptors

  • Spread: Raptors -9.5
  • Over/Under: 225.5
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

>> All odds as of noon ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NBA odds and track your bets

The Hornets and Raptors both entered the season with high hopes thanks to talented rosters and new coaching staffs. Through the first week of the season, they’ve both exceeded expectations. Can the Hornets cover the big number tonight and show they’re a threat in the East? Our analysts are here to discuss.

Moore: What I’m Watching for Tonight

I really like what new Hornets head coach James Borrego has done early in the season. The Hornets are pushing the pace, and Borrego is playing some weird lineups.

He’s playing too much Willy Hernangomez (net rating -4.8 per 100 possessions), but he’s also playing super small. The young guys are providing decent production, and Kemba Walker’s a man on fire.

That said… Toronto could not look better. Kyle Lowry has started out hot, and the continuity shows in how they’re playing.

Charlotte is one of three teams that ranks in the top 10 in both Offensive and Defensive Rating, along with Toronto and Indiana. The Hornets are off to a great start.

Tonight’s task is a tall one for Charlotte, though, as Toronto’s defense is brutally tough. The Raptors are No. 1 in half-court defense according to Synergy Sports.

However, they are 22nd in spot-up defense, while the Hornets are fourth in spot-up shots created. That metric had a higher correlation than any other playtype to ATS performance last season. If the Hornets can generate good shots and knock them down, they’re going to hang with the Raptors.

Watch out for the battle inside, because Cody Zeller is good and this is a fine matchup for him. The Hornets will likely use Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as a counter for Serge Ibaka in small ball. The frontcourt battle is significant in this matchup, despite all the perimeter firepower. Matt Moore

Locky: Why I’m Betting the Hornets ATS

These are two teams that have been really impressive to start the season. I’m not sure anyone expected Toronto to be this good this fast with integrating Kawhi Leonard, and I’m not sure anyone expected Charlotte to be this good at all.

These teams are also an Ibaka reach-in foul in garbage time away from being a combined 6-0 vs. the closing number ATS (the Cavs covered against the Raptors in the opener due to that foul).

Looking at the teams’ raw numbers and the lack of significant injuries on each side, I think the off-the-court advantages for Toronto (at home, with Kawhi back, playing a team at the end of a road trip) just have to be baked into this number somehow. I don’t see Toronto through three games with this much of an advantage over Charlotte.

I’m also willing at this early point in the season to put less stock in road trips — the team has played only three total games; is fatigue really as much of a factor as in, say, February? — and also acknowledge that I think Charlotte can improve as the Hornets figure out what on earth they are doing with their rotations.

Borrego is trying a bunch of things, and some of them are working. The small lineup with MKG at the 5 is particularly intriguing, and it helps that Malik Monk is now a positive-impact player.

I just think this number is a little too high, and if lowly Cleveland closed +12.5 in Toronto, then 9.5 is too many here for a playoff-caliber team this early in the season. May the trends come back to bite me now. Ken Barkley

Mears: Is Charlotte’s Defense Real?

Both teams have been excellent to start the season, and they’ve largely done it on ‘D’, each ranking in the top 10 in defensive efficiency and holding opponents under a 50% effective field goal mark.

The Hornets have also been especially adept at forcing turnovers, ranking third in the league in that regard, and part of the reason is likely the result of them playing smaller this season.

The question, though, is whether forcing turnovers at that rate will continue, and what will happen to Charlotte’s top-10 defense if it doesn’t. Looking at the data, there’s reason for continued optimism: The Hornets rank third behind the Nuggets and Celtics in halfcourt defensive efficiency, allowing just 101.1 points per 100 possessions.

But Charlotte’s increased offensive pace has also led to a bunch of transition plays for its opponents. The Hornets have allowed a transition play on 19.6% of their defensive possessions, the fourth-highest mark in the league, and while they’ve been largely good defending those, it’s possible that will regress to the mean.

A lot has been made of Charlotte’s new-look offense, but I will be monitoring its defense over the next couple months, as that will really determine this team’s season-long ceiling. Bryan Mears

Betting Trends to Know

Since start of last season, the Raptors are 36-7 straight-up in the regular season when playing in Toronto, winning on average by 10.5 points. However, the Raps are only 23-20 against the spread over that span. John Ewing

Good ATS teams tend to struggle on the back end of road trips. In that same time frame, teams that have covered at least 75% of games, playing at least the third consecutive game on the road are 23-39-1 ATS (37.1%). — Evan Abrams

Did You Know? Since 2005, the Hornets are 62-76-3 ATS when they enter a game with an above-.500 record. — Evan Abrams

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.