Feb 25, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) reacts to a call during the third quarter of the game against the Houston Rockets at Sleep Train Arena. The Houston Rockets defeated the Sacramento Kings 129-103. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento Kings (22-39) at Toronto Raptors (33-26): 3 keys to evening the score

Mar 3, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings small forward Rudy Gay (8) speaks with referee Bill Kennedy (5) on the sideline during a free throw by the New Orleans Pelicans during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Sacramento Kings defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 96-89. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings arrive at the Air Canada Centre on a two-game winning streak. Knocking off the Pelicans and Bucks is no huge feat, but they are in form. The Kings are the only NBA team with 3 players averaging over 20 PPG [Points Per Game]: Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas. While those 3 can certainly fill it up, their colleagues don’t provide much help. Their next-highest scorer at 9.5 PPG is Derrick Williams, who’s still trying to shake his image as a mammoth draft bust. The Kings are miles away from a playoff shot, which allows coach Mike Malone to give rookie Ben McLemore the start tonight at shooting guard. Underachieving Jason Thompson is the power forward.

Sac-to is one of four teams which average more than 100 PPG, yet allow more points than they score. The others in this way-under-.500 group include Detroit, Denver and the Lakers. By contrast, the Toronto Raptors are tenth in the NBA with a plus-3.1 differential.

The Raps were defeated in California’s capital in February, a game most noteworthy for a furious Toronto Q4 comeback which was blunted on that infamous offensive foul call on Kyle Lowry. If Lowry’s contact with the defender while shooting was a foul, then the NBA should pull down Karl Malone’s plaque from the Hall of Fame; so many of his “and-one’s” were as a result of scissor-kicking the defender, yet getting the call. Anyway, such a silly foul-call at a critical time is all too typical of the way the Raps are treated by NBA referees.

Toronto will be eager for payback, and hopefully are healthy again after a 4-day break. They should win this match, if they:

  • get Cousins to self-destruct. This guy is the successor to Rasheed Wallace as the player most likely to whine until he gets a technical foul. He “leads” the NBA with 15 T’s, and for me at least, should be the owner of the nickname “Big Baby” which is currently pinned on Glen Davis. Run right at him – even if he blocks a few shots, he’ll eventually knock somebody down, then cry when he’s whistled. If he’s forced to sit with (say) 3 fouls by halfway through Q2, the Kings’ paint presence is gone, on both ends of the floor. Sacramento is tied with Denver as the league’s most foul-prone team, so they can be badly hurt if we force the play.
  • get in Thomas’ face. Kyle is actually facing an opponent he can look down on, but tiny Thomas can shoot the lights out if he’s not bothered.
  • box people out. Dwane Casey has called attention to his team’s recent rebounding struggles; fair enough, but crashing the glass is made much easier if they can’t get there.

While Landry Fields is listed as starting, let’s hope we get at least a glimpse of Terrence Ross. If his ankle is up to the strain, he can hurt this team. Even without him at full strength, the Raps will win 109-102.

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