Kings 87, Raptors 99 – Box
Rudy Gay comes back and gets booed, plays the way he did when he was with the Raptors and the Kings get blown out. Of course there’s no reason for booing him but that’s your ACC crowd right there. My theory is that they’re still so scarred by Vince Carter that some weird kind of muscle-memory kicks in every time they see a moderately talented ex-Raptor return to the city. They don’t boo Reggie Evans or Quincy Acy because they supposedly gave it their all, while Rudy Gay didn’t. Of course, there’s no evidence to suggest this but let’s not have facts get in the way of a good boo, especially when you’re committed enough to doing it on every touch. Ugh.
The main danger area for Sacramento is always DeMarcus Cousins for two reasons: 1) DeMar Cousins has serious size and skill that hurts you on both ends, and 2) we got nobody to quite matchup with DeMarcus Cousins. Thus it’s a good thing that DeMarcus Cousins picked up two fouls midway through the first and allowed the Raptors to extend a four point lead to ten by the end of the frame. A loud sigh of relief was heard in the ACC when the Raptors matched up Amir Johnson against Cousins on a switch, sparing Jonas Valanciunas blushes.
Offered the reprieve, Valanciunas thanked the fans and his coach by facing up against Cousins and knocking down some of his patented short jumpers, which look about as smooth as a porcupine hugging a hedgehog. On this night there were effective, and on one momentous occasion he even drew a foul causing me to erupt in what can best be described as relief.
DeMar DeRozan was being checked by a combination of Ben McLemore and Rudy Gay, who he didn’t see much of a challenge in. At least that’s what I could surmise after DeRozan upped the degree of difficulty on some of his shots to NBA2K All-Pro Level. That wasn’t enough to send the score into the red as Kyle Lowry was executing his semi-transition play where he dribbles the ball hard up the court only to find a trailer with good effect. The first-quarter assist disparity (7-1 Raptors) reflected the style of play for both teams. On one end you had the Raptors moving the ball, and on the other you had McLemore, Gay (guarded by Ross) and Isaiah Thomas going rogue.
Quick X’s and O’s note. Terrence Ross had a good-shooting game and one of the play that gets him open is a baseline screen, usually set by Johnson, followed by an elbow screen, usually set by Valanciunas, followed by him flaring out to the wing for a three. On this night he had a couple of those which got him going early, thus kept him going late. You can see all his field goals here.
Another X’s and O’s note while we’re at it. DeMar DeRozan likes that dribble-handoff on the perimeter and likes to turn inside, and when he does he has some options available to him, like a short pull-up or a drive. When the big in those situations steps out on DeRozan, the play sort of breaks down. It ends up with DeRozan being with the ball against a, more or less, set defense and trying his shoulder/pump fakes to get a shot off. Not pretty, might want to swing that ball when that happens.
Sacramento was a bit better in the second quarter. To be specific, it was Toronto’s perimeter defense, specifically Greivis Vasquez and DeMar DeRozan against Isaiah Thomas and Ben McLemore that let us down. The dribble-penetration was quite easy for their guards, and with Johnson glued to Cousins in the paint, the finishing became easy. Just as Sacramento was gaining some momentum, Cousins picked up his third foul on a push-off against Tyler Hansbrough, sending him to the bench. Side-note: Watching Hasnbrough and Reggie Evans go at it for a rebound is quite funny. Basically, they’re in some sort of ass-wrestling match where you win by resisting to throw an elbow to the chest for a foul.
Patrick Patterson had 15 points on 5-8 shooting included three treys, and more impressively, had a couple huge blocks near the rim which you didn’t see coming. You don’t associate the words “rim protector” with Patterson and I realize he’s not that, yet I suspect he’s going to continue to provide some steel down the middle when would-be adventurers like Thomas ply their trade inside. Good stuff, Patrick. And I’ll let the Quincy Acy fans who were bemoaning the seldom-used swingman’s departure in the Gay-trade as something to shed a tear about know that Patrick Patterson, currently, is 10 times the player Acy is.
“Most of all, he’s got that old-man strength. You’ve got to be strong to hold your ground against Cousins, he’s a beast in there … I thought his brute strength helped him hold his position. He knows him but, still, you can know him and still not be able to hold your spot. He did that and we didn’t have to double team.”
There was some suggestion that the Kings might make a game of it in the second half since Cousins, limited to only 8:32 in the first half, would play a lot more in the second. Those fears were rendered invalid when Dwane Casey made two moves against Cousins: 1) Sent occasional help whenever he dribbled to throw him off base, and 2) Switched Chuck Hayes on him. Hayes stripped Cousins twice in the third quarter which frustrated the latter to no end. Sacramento’s offense had a distinct shade of Rudy Gay about them and shot 40% to the Raptors’ 50% in the third. The main threat for the Raptors was again Ross, who had five of his six FGs assisted on, including three threes in the third, and 6-8 3FG on the night.
The lead at the end of the third was 17 and reached 23 in the fourth quarter before the accounting was complete at a 12-point margin.
So what did we learn? We learned that if you control DeMarcus Cousins through foul trouble, neutralize the Kings’ dribble penetration, they’ll be forced into jumpers which they’re not very good at making. When the Kings were having any moderate success they were going inside and edging up a 26-14 margin in points in the paint for the first half. In the second that number was only slight at 16-14.
For the Raptors it’s all about distribution. They had five guys in double figures and two others with 9 and 8 points. You can’t quite plan for that as an opposing coach, and so it was that the Kings were overwhelmed by Ross and Patterson’s outside shooting (Raptors were 10-21 3FG for the game), Valanciunas’s surprising scoring, and some timely defense in the third quarter. Leading from behind was Kyle Lowry whose 7 assists were a game-high on this rather lazy Friday night at the ACC which, I suppose, signified that the Raptors did well to not let the 4-day lay-off have adverse impacts. There’s been some talk of rebounding weaknesses in the squad of late and tonight they were only a -2 against a strong Kings frontline.
The victory matches the win total from last season with 22 games left. The Bulls lost and are now a firm two games back in the loss column. Up next are back-to-back trips to Minnesota and Brooklyn on Sunday and Monday, respectively. Coincidentally, the Nets will also be on a back-to-back as they face these same Kings the night before.
That’s about all this game deserves. Well done, Raptors, for exacting a sort of revenge on that whole BS foul against Kyle Lowry in Sacramento. I should also point out that tragedy struck late in the game as the Raptors only scored 99 points, snatching the pizza away from the malnourished ACC crowd, which responded appropriately and half-heartedly by booing.