Raptors-Bobcats Preview


After having their home winning streak stopped, the first-place Toronto Raptors are hoping to put an end to their road struggles with a rare win in Charlotte.

With Kemba Walker out for the slumping Bobcats, the Raptors will try to avoid falling back to .500 by snapping a six-game losing streak in Charlotte on Monday.

The Raptors (20-19) have built a lead atop the weak Atlantic Division thanks to their strong play at home, but they had a six-game winning streak there halted after blowing a 19-point lead in a 112-106 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

After limiting opponents to an average of 88.0 points and a 27.4 3-point percentage over its previous six games, Toronto gave up its highest point total in its last 13 while allowing the Lakers to hit 12 of 22 from beyond the arc.

''We didn't get our defensive focus into the game all afternoon,'' coach Dwane Casey said.

Toronto, though, may be able to get back on track defensively as it tries to avoid a fourth straight road loss with its first win in Charlotte since March 29, 2010.

The Bobcats (17-25), who rank near the bottom of the NBA with 93.9 points per game, will be without their leading scorer in this meeting.

Walker, averaging 18.7 points, went down in the third quarter of Saturday's 104-96 overtime home loss to Dwyane Wade-less Miami when he stepped on Chris Bosh's foot. He's expected to miss 10 to 14 days with a second degree sprain in his left ankle, ending his streak of 190 consecutive games played - the second-longest in team history.

Walker had 29 points - including a buzzer-beating jumper in overtime - in the Bobcats' 104-102 win in Toronto on Dec. 18.

Ramon Sessions, who has averaged 14.4 points in 108 career starts, is expected to fill in for a Charlotte team that has dropped 10 of 13 since opening 14-15.

Al Jefferson is likely to carry the scoring load since he's averaged 27.8 points and 11.5 rebounds in his last four games. Dating to his time with Utah, he's put up 27.3 points and 10.5 boards per game in his last four against Toronto.

Since allowing an average of 111.3 points over a six-game stretch, the Bobcats have tightened things up by surrendering 99.5 per game over their last four. Still, they've allowed 11 of their last 17 opponents to hit triple digits after holding 17 of their previous 18 below 100.

"I feel like we're getting back to fighting, defending and staying in games," coach Steve Clifford said. "Hopefully that will help us going forward."

Clifford's squad may have to contain red-hot Kyle Lowry if it hopes to sweep the season series from the Raptors. Lowry has averaged 21.5 points and hit 16 of 29 from 3-point range in his last four games.

DeMar DeRozan, averaging a team-best 21.2 points, and Lowry finished with a combined 47 in last month's loss, but totaled just 22 in a 92-90 setback in Charlotte on Nov. 6.

Toronto hasn't topped 83 points while shooting 37.7 percent from the field in its last two road games.

The Raptors have dropped 10 of the last 13 meetings overall.