Raptors (7-3) at Kings (3-7): Preview & 3 keys to victory


The Toronto Raptors begin their nasty west-coast trip in Sacramento tonight against the Kings.

These teams should switch coaches for a month. Sacramento can’t defend; despite ranking fifth in the NBA in scoring with an average of 103.5 Points Per Game [PPG], the Kings isn’t winning because only Washington and New Orleans allow more points. Sacramento is -5.1, or 108.6 PPG against to date, which means they are full value for their crummy record.

The Raptors, by contrast, are defending stoutly, allowing opponents an average of 96.1 PPG. That’s the league’s fifth best mark, but the team ranks outside the top ten offensively. If George Karl were the Raptors’ bench boss, he would devise schemes to create more ball movement, and I’m sure Dwane Casey could compel more active defense from Rudy Gay and others.

More from Raptors News

Jan 28, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay (8) congratulates former teammates Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) and point guard Kyle Lowry (7) after the Kings defeat at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Kings 119-102. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento might be interested in Dwane, or somebody else. Rumours of Karl’s forced departure have been swirling since virtually the moment he signed on. The Kings’ hugely talented power forward/centre, DeMarcus Cousins, doesn’t like Karl and won’t pretend to. Cousins was a big fan of Mike Malone, who was cashiered last season by owner Vivek Ranadive. The emasculated General Manager, Pete D’Alessandro, decided the job wasn’t right (who could blame him after being sidelined when his coach is canned?) and returned to the Denver Nuggets. Ex-King great Vlade Divac has the GM’s seat now.

I take no pleasure in rehashing all this front office folly, but it’s important for me to offer a sense of how much turmoil the Kings’ franchise has undergone, and why they are still struggling after years of rebuilding.

The Kings’ roster looks better than its record. Rajon Rondo is a perpetual nominee for Biggest Pain in the Opposite-of-Front among his coaches and referees, but he has three triple-doubles already this season. Cousins is a beast; he hung 40 points on hapless Brooklyn Friday night. Rudy Gay is scoring, as always. Prize rookie Willie Cauley-Stein, listed at centre, is off to a decent start to his pro career. James Anderson is the defensive-minded shooting guard.

Sacramento’s bench gets its scoring punch from outside bomber Marco Belinelli and penetrating guard Darren Collison. Otherwise, it’s populated with journeymen like Caron Butler and Omri Casspi. Youthful guard Ben McLemore might be finding his game, and bears watching.

The Raptors can take this team if they…:

  1. Limit the turnovers. Rondo is a pest who always ranks among the league’s steals leaders (he’s eighth this season – Kyle Lowry is second with 2.5). Rondo is also tied for sixth in turnovers with 3.6, so he’s vulnerable.
  2. Get Cousins in foul trouble. The ball needs to move into the low post early. Jonas Valanciunas may get his shots blocked, but that’s small potatoes. Cousins is fourth in fouls, and his backup, Kosta Koufos, sits fifth in fewer minutes. If we can sit Cousins down, the already-weak Kings defense will struggle in the paint.
  3. Crash the boards. The Raptors have done that well this season, tied with OKC and behind only the Spurs in opposition rebounds allowed. The Kings are middle of the pack.

This game is no gimme. The Kings have won their last two matches, and may be rounding into form. Their building has traditionally been a wasteland for Toronto. Still, DeMarre Carroll is back, and I think the Raptors are ready to enjoy a strong shooting game. Toronto 117 – Sacramento 106.

Next: Is Terrence Ross finished as a Raptor?

Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.