All respect to the Sacramento Kings, something I never thought I’d say, but this team has been truly dangerous to date on the season. They play fast, the play together, they are well coached, and they make you work. This felt like a trap game in the making in my eyes when I saw Kawhi Leonard would once again be taking the night off for “load management”…
…at least until the inactive/injury list was posted for both teams. Yes, the Raptors were also without OG Anunoby and Jonas Valanciunas, but a team with their depth has the tools to continue momentum despite absensus to rotation players. Sacramento on the other hand doesn’t have the same flexibility, and without De’Aaron Fox, Nemanja Bjelica, and Iman Shumpert last night the remaining Kings were getting fed to the wolves (errr…fed to the Raptors).
Oh, and Sacramento was on the second half of a back-to-back after getting thumped by 29 points by the Brooklyn Nets the night before.
Despite all of that the Kings deserved much better than the final outcome, a 120-105 Raptors win. They are a fun group who fought the entire 48 minutes and kept it close for the majority of the night. With a foundation of Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Marvin Bagley (shouldn’t have been picked second, but still very good) the Kings have a good foundation to try and build on. It should be exciting to watch them screw it up somehow.
We’ll get to the Raptors in a second, but I do want to focus a little bit on what the Kings did well. Without Fox they still played at what seemed like a dizzying pace, pushing the ball at any and every opportunity including after made Raptors buckets. Buddy and Bagley helped carry them early and often, but it was the consistent effort of Bogdanovic that created problems for the Raptors.
Bogdan finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists, and 3 steals. Each time it seemed like the Raptors were about to make a run it was Bogdan that slowed the tide, whether by hitting a triple in transition or by working the pick-and-roll to create an open dunk/shot for a teammate. He was a real issue for the Raptors.
Now to the Raptors. The story for a good portion of the night was turnovers, with the Raptors committing too many of them and failing to stop the Kings in transition. Off of 16 Raptors turnovers the Kings scored 18 points and it felt far worse than that.
Helping the Kings early on was Pascal Siakam. Sacramento continued a recent trend by opponents to throw double-teams at Siakam quicker than they did earlier in the season, forcing him to make faster decisions. In the first half this came with mixed results for Siakam, throwing away a few turnovers in the process.
The second half was much better for Siakam who helped keep the Raptors in the lead through pure hustle and energy. The third quarter saw the Kings close a 10+ point gap to 2, and without Siakam the lead would have been Sacramento’s for the taking. He was everywhere on both sides of the ball and turned around his early struggles with a great finish.
Greg Monroe was awful. He failed to dunk the ball three times on one possession, with the Raptors coming up empty. Moose went 0-for-4 from the field and 0-for-4 from the free throw line, which should be hard to do. It was his struggles that saw Chris Boucher get real first half minutes (came in with roughly 8 minutes left in the second quarter) and largely take the back-up duties at centre for the second half.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Toronto truly put Sacramento in their rear-view mirror, in large part due to Lowry and the bench (they’re back!!). It started early with back-to-back triples from CJ Miles and Lowry, following by further heat from CJ (he’s back!) and general energy from the entire crew. We saw Delon pull down a one-handed rebound for the put-back lay-up, and a ridiculous ally-oop for Chris Boucher off a Lowry toss. Look at this:
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 23, 2019
I’ve watched this repeatedly and still have no idea how he got that to go down. The toss was behind him but Boucher is just so stupidly long he managed to bring it forward for the throw down.
CJ deserves his own paragraph here with his third straight great game. CJ was letting it fly and everything was dropping, starting the game 5-for-5 before ruining his perfect night on a near poster style dunk. The bench has been missing some pop this season and the GoDaddy Curse taking hold of CJ if a big reason why. If his recent run of shots dropping is the regression to the mean we have been hoping for then the Raptors have a great weapon at their disposal moving forward.
Last night was somehow incredibly entertaining and consistently predictable. The Kings put forth a great effort and, as said earlier, likely deserved better than what they got. Against many teams they would have had enough to steal the game, but the Raptors are really freaking good. When Lowry and CJ are hitting threes, and there is balanced scoring across the roster, the Raptors are hard to beat and it doesn’t matter who is getting the night off.
The Raptors took the Kings best punches and kept coming. This was a professional win on a night that it would have been easy to let it slip away against a high energy opponent.