Toronto Raptors: Three takeaways from hard-fought win vs Kings

Toronto Raptors - Chris Boucher (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Chris Boucher (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors defeated the Sacramento Kings in a game where they were made to work very hard for the win. What did we learn from the game?

The Toronto Raptors welcomed an ailing Sacramento Kings in need of a bounce-back win after a blowout loss against the Brooklyn Nets on MLK Day. Unfortunately for Sacramento, the Raptors would not provide any such cure. Toronto won their tenth straight home game, and are now sitting with a record of 36-13, three games better off than they were at this stage last season.

Toronto was once again without star player Kawhi Leonard, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year inactive once again due to load management. An understandable stance to take considering Leonard only featured in nine games for the San Antonio Spurs last season. Leonard may be close to, or in fact, fully healthy but a certain level of caution is advised when dealing with a “degenerative” issue.

The Kings were without their breakout star point guard themselves, De’Aaron Fox earning a night of rest along with Garrett Temple and Nemanja Bjelica. Their absence didn’t affect the Kings early on, Sacramento attacked the paint aggressively, scoring 19 of their 32 points from inside in the first quarter. The Raptors lack of presence in the paint gave the Kings the key to the rim while they also shot 3/6 from three-point range. Quality, not quantity was the name of the game for Sacramento.

The Raptors got working in the second quarter, beginning to force turnovers and push the ball out in transition, Kyle Lowry and co. had the Kings defense scrambling at times. The Kings stuck around though, the tenacious frontcourt of Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley III caused problems at times, the Raptors would pull at to a 6-0 run late in the second quarter but, once again, the Kings would claw their way back into it.

The Raptors started the third quarter with a Fred VanVleet three after a Pascal Siakam drive-and-kick action, finding Fred wide-open for his third three of the night. The Raptors were moving the ball well and knocking down threes, but still, the Kings wouldn’t lie down. Credit to Dave Joerger, he has this team playing well and playing hard. The Raptors began to get stops and turn the ball over towards the end of the third quarter, steals from VanVleet and Siakam helped the Raptors get out on an 11-2 run before a Ben McLemore three ended the run.

The Raptors stretched out their lead in the fourth quarter, Fred VanVleet leading the charge with 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Toronto shot 40-percent from three on the night, C.J. Miles continued his resurgence with another solid outing. He had 15 points, including 4-5 from three-point range. The Raptors are now 11-2 without Kawhi, and with Leonard sitting out against the Pacers we won’t see him until Saturday night against the Rockets.

Anyway, here are my three takeaways from the game.

1. Norman Powell’s improvements

So, Norman Powell has certainly been a different player since his return from injury. He’s shooting the ball a lot better and more efficiently, a lot of the improvement stems from his improved decision making. Powell seems to be a lot more comfortable making quick decisions, he’s shooting when he should be shooting and he’s driving to the rim when necessary. Last season, Norm would just drive to the rim into a crowd of players, usually leading to a turnover.

He scored 11 points on 4-7 shooting against the Kings, including a made three. His upturn in play seems to coincide with a better understanding of his role and what is required of him, which is great.

2. More meaningful Boucher minutes

Greg Monroe is not really working. Monroe has his uses, he’s a decent rebounder and a good passer, his post moves can also be very effective on his day. However, it’s not his day an awful lot. Moose went scoreless in eleven minutes and provided below average defense once again. He missed all four free-throw attempts and rarely made a positive impact on the game

Chris Boucher was a little more impactful for the Raptors, he also played eleven minutes, his most of the season, but he added eight points and made all four of his free-throw attempts on the game. Boucher might be a little raw still but he always finds a way to get involved in the game, and he can stretch the floor. He’s also a lengthy defender who can contest shots and switch onto the perimeter.

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Give me Boucher over Monroe, any day.

3. Marvin Bagley III is a fun player

I don’t think I’m alone in saying this, but Marvin Bagley is a really fun player to watch. He’s got a great post game, he can play above the rim, he can rebound well and even has the potential to stretch his game beyond the three-point line.

Bagley is still finding his feet as a defender, which will be made a little easier when paired with Willie Cauley-Stein, but he’s only 19 years old. It’ll come, sooner or later. Bagley had a game-high 22 points as well as a game-high 11 rebounds. He showed an array of quality moves in the low post to beat out Serge Ibaka at one point, a combination of twists and turns followed by an easy lay-up.

While he still has a lot to learn, as does every rookie, Bagley showed up big for the Kings on Tuesday night and looks to be a solid addition moving forward.

Be sure to check out our takeaways after each game at