The Toronto Raptors' current six-game stint back home in the comfy Air Canada Centre may seem bland compared with the team's recent daunting road stretch versus some of the NBA's glamour squads, but it presents some captivating tripwires.
Toronto has just begun a homestand against what may seem like mostly hum-drum Eastern Conference foes. The stretch may have once looked like a chance for the reeling Raptors to catch their breath, but now it seems laced with snares.
It began Thursday with a loss to Kemba Walker and the 14-24 Charlotte Hornets, a team that has now beaten the Raptors in their past five meetings.
The man sitting No. 5 in scoring among NBA point guards came in on three straight 30-point games and threatening his penchant for recent game-winning shots.
Next up is the 12-21 Boston Celtics – in theory a chance for a much-needed win. Then the surging Detroit Pistons visit on Monday, the NBA's hottest team of the moment, despite a 12-23 record. Detroit is on a seven-game winning streak since waiving Josh Smith, toppling giants such as the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurson the road behind Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.
Then the lowly 5-29 Philadelphia 76ers visit, two days before the mighty 27-8 Atlanta Hawks – but not the same Hawks who visited back in October and gave Toronto a happy opening-night victory. This is now the white-hot squad that recently stole the Eastern Conference lead from the Raptors. Then comes the New Orleans Pelicans – the lone West visitor in this stint – along with their superstar, Anthony Davis.
"Home won't take care of you," said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. "You have to take care of home."