Lowry, who has been contributing but not necessarily in the areas the Raptors need him most, seemed back to the do-it-all Lowry we have come to expect over the years.
“I think the 50-minute conditioning thing in DC (double OT win in Washington) and that third quarter in Boston, I think he looked a little bit more like himself here tonight,” head coach Nick Nurse said.
Lowry hit four three-pointers the game, the first time he’s reached those heights since a win over the Clippers in L.A. on Dec. 11. It was just the fifth time all year he has hit four or more in a game.
Also looking more like himself was VanVleet, who had a rough night Sunday leading to some speculation that the nagging injuries were starting to become a real factor.
“You want to take big leaps every year and as great a year as I had last year, my role really hasn’t changed that much this year in terms of what I mean to this team,” VanVleet said. “Naturally, you want to do more and score more and play more and do all of those things and I’ve had those opportunities with guys resting and injuries and stuff, being able to start.”
Rounding out the get-well evening was Miles, who posted his third consecutive double-digit points night and now has a total of nine three-pointers in his last three games, which will always be the measuring stick where Miles is concerned.
This one won’t be a win that takes up much time on the season highlight reel when one is made, but it just might be more important in the sense of allowing a handful of guys to find their rhythm.
Making his 19th start of the season with Kawhi Leonard and OG Anunoby still out of the lineup, VanVleet had 19 points, tied a career high with seven rebounds and helped ignite a fine offensive night as the Raptors pulled away to beat the Sacramento Kings 120-105 at the Scotiabank Arena.
VanVleet, who made three of Toronto’s 16 three-pointers, also dished out seven assists.
“He was grouchy again tonight at the start,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “But at least he made a couple of threes and then wasn’t as grouchy once he started scoring.
“He had a little bit of an attitude again tonight, he just has that sense of urgency and wants to play better, and I thought he finally got untracked a little bit.”
The win was Toronto’s 10th straight at home, two off the franchise record set near the start of the 2017-18 season. They have won the 10 by an average margin of more than 10 points and own a 21-4 record at the Scotiabank Arena this season.
VanVleet did it early while Lowry stepped up late.
VanVleet, who shot 1 for 8 in Saturday’s win over Memphis, had 11 points in the first quarter. Lowry scored 11 in the fourth quarter.
“I think he looked a little bit more like himself here tonight,” Nurse said of Lowry who missed six games after Christmas due to lower back pain.
VanVleet has his own issues. While he continues to have his lower back wrapped while on the bench, he says he is well enough to play.
“It’s been up and down,” he said of his health. “There’s days where I feel great, there’s days where I feel like I’ve been hit by a car. That’s the NBA. At this point, nobody’s really 100 per cent.”
Siakam had 18 points while Ibaka added 15 points and 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season. C.J. Miles had a season-high 15 for Toronto.
The Raptors made 16 three-pointers to seven for Sacramento. Toronto is 17-4 this season when it makes 12 or more three-pointers a game.
A 9-0 Kings run, during which Toronto missed five straight shots and turned the ball over, cooled the Raptors late in the first quarter and Sacramento led 34-29 going into the second quarter.
What has worked for the Raptors in this era of quicker basketball is their transition defence; only four of Toronto’s losses have come against teams with more pace. Nurse hopes that aspect of the Raptors’ game is trending in the right direction.
C.J. Miles, a 14-year veteran, believes winning against quicker teams comes down to a balance between the Raptors matching their speed and playing their own game.
“The biggest thing is always what’s in your locker room first,” he said. “You know what they’re going to try to do and you don’t let them dictate it.
“The biggest thing is get stops and running and opportunities. Making sure that when you’re running that you’re in control of it. Not just getting shots up because they’re getting shots up. It’s all about the game plan and what you can take from them and continue to play to our strengths.”
Green said Toronto will have to continue to be on the lookout for teams such as the Kings, whose speed can be an equalizer on any given night.
“Everybody’s getting up and down and shooting the three-ball, so you’ve got to be prepared for that.”
The big-picture stuff is extremely encouraging: Kawhi Leonard has been just as efficient as he was before his quad injury, Danny Green has fit in better than anyone could have hoped and Pascal Siakam has sparked joy all over Toronto. There are issues — Kyle Lowry’s scoring dip, the non-dominant bench — but they are relatively minor for a team with the league’s best record. The Raptors’ ceiling is significantly higher than ever before.
A former top Sacramento Kings executive has pleaded guilty to siphoning $13.4 million from the team to buy Southern California beachfront properties, according to court records.
The records show former chief revenue officer Jeffrey David pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges of wire fraud and identity theft. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison when he is sentenced April 15.
David was charged last year with forging the team president’s signature to divert sponsorship payments to a bank account he controlled.
Prosecutors say the scheme was uncovered soon after David left the Kings in June and accepted a similar post with the Miami Heat. The Heat said in September that the team and David parted ways.
The Kings continued to struggle early in the second, particularly with defending the long ball. The Raptors had connected on 11 threes at a 41% clip by the midway point in the third quarter. Some flashy defensive plays from Bagley and Giles made up for a lackluster overall performance. The Kings got close at times, but were never able to get back to even with Toronto.
The Raptors played great team basketball and distributed the scoring duties beautifully, playing for the open shot. Six players hit double digits by the eight minute mark in fourth quarter: VanVleet, Siakam, Ibaka, Lowry, CJ Miles, and Norman Powell.
The Raptors won the battle again in the third quarter, and it became clear that they would win the war. A major mistake from Ben McLemore led to three free throws from a half court heave at the buzzer. Delon Wright hit two of the three and made it a double digit lead heading to the fourth, 78-88.
It only got worse from there. Perhaps the consolation for the Kings came in the form of some nice statistical nights for Marvin Bagley and Bogdan Bogdanovic. The rookie big man showed off his enormous potential in his first career start, racking up 22 points and 11 boards. Bogi had an impressively well rounded night and nearly recorded his first triple-double. He had 16, 9, and 8 to go with his 3 steals.
Like Fox, Bjelica has yet to miss a game this season, but his numbers have fallen off the board in January. The 30-year-old forward is averaging 6.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in 21.9 minutes.
His shooting numbers have suffered a dramatic did as well. He’s shooting just 38.9 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from 3-point range, pushing his season shooting averages down to 48.5 percent overall and 41.9 percent from deep.
Shupert, 28, has already tripled his season minute totals from last year when he played just 14 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since turning the new year, Shumpert is 27 percent from the field and 28.1 from 3-point land in his eight starts.
Yogi Ferrell is scheduled to started in Fox’s place in the backcourt. Rookie Marvin Bagley will pick up his first career start at the four. Super-sub Bogdan Bogdanovic will get the nod at the three.
All three players are expected back in uniform Friday when the Kings face the Memphis Grizzlies for game five of their season-long six game road trip.
With the team having days off on both Wednesday and Thursday, the extra day of rest will give the group a three day break to recharge.
The Raptors are shorthanded as well, missing All-Star Kawhi Leonard (load management), Jonas Valanciunas (thumb) and OG Anunoby (personal).
Leading into tonight’s game:
– Injury Report: For the Raptors, Jonas Valanciunas (left thumb dislocation), Kawhi Leonard (load management) and OG Anunoby (personal reasons) will be out. For the Pacers, the injury report is clear.
– On the road again: Wednesday’s game in Indiana will be a back-to-back for the Raptors who collected their third straight win against the Kings at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday with a 120-105 victory. It is also the first game in a three-game road trip for Toronto. The trip begins in Indiana against the Pacers, moves to Houston where the Raptors will take on the Rockets on Friday, and concludes in Dallas against the Mavericks on Sunday. When the Raptors return to Scotiabank Arena, they will host the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 31.
– Recent history: This is the third regular-season meeting between the Raptors and Pacers. Toronto has won the first two meetings, a 99-96 thriller on Dec. 19, followed by a 121-105 decision on Jan. 6. Both victories were at Scotiabank Arena. In the most recent meeting, Norman Powell scored a season-high 23 points, Pascal Siakam had a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double and Serge Ibaka scored 18 points. The Raptors led by two after the first quarter, seven at the half and 12 points after three quarters. Indiana enters Wednesday’s contest having won two straight and four of their last five. The Pacers are third in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks.
“They beat us twice, but we feel like we’re right there,” Pacers point guard Darren Collison said. “Eliminate some mistakes and we’ll be OK. We match up pretty well against them. But if we want to be one of the best in the East, this shouldn’t be a statement game. We should go out and compete and win. I feel like if you’re the best, it shouldn’t be a statement game. Statement games are for teams that are underdogs. I don’t think we feel like underdogs.”
Leonard has not played since he scored 33 points in a loss in Boston on Jan. 16. He did not play the second game of the back-to-back the next night, a win over the Phoenix Suns. He has yet to play both ends of a back-to-back set this season after a quadriceps injury limited him to nine game last season with the San Antonio Spurs.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before the game Tuesday that it was a good chance give him a rest but that he will play Friday when the Raptors visit the Houston Rockets.
“Well, first of all, it’s a medical decision from our medical team,” Nurse said. “And it’s just a load management thing still. I think he’s played what, 35, 36 games now after playing nine a year ago. It was just a chance to get him some extended rest. We’re sitting him out this back-to-back and he’s definitely gonna play Friday in Houston.”
Nurse noted that the Raptors manage the workloads of all their players. “We’ll continue to manage their load,” he said. “That’s half the reason we don’t have practice some days and don’t have shootaround some days. We’re trying to rejuice and reenergize and kinda play the long game here a little bit.”