Gameday: Raptors @ Kings, Jan. 8

6 mins read

The vaunted early season Kings matchup. Let’s get it.

This is Kyle Lowry’s 9th season with the Raptors, and in the prior 8 seasons the Raptors have gone all-square (4-4) against the Kings in their first matchup of the year. Many of those matchups coming at the beginning of the season as we see today. For some reason, not one that I understand, the Raptors have been played even by a team that has never bested them in the standings during the Lowry era. Today, they take the lead.

The good news? The Raptors seemed to sort out a lot of their woes offensively vs. the Suns. Especially those that involved Pascal Siakam. The bad news? The Suns profile as one of the best teams in the NBA and they rained hellfire on the Raptors from downtown (21-40). It’s hard to win against very good teams when they hit 20+ threes on 50+ percent.

More on Siakam’s performance:

Sacramento has hitched their wagon to the rapid De’Aaron Fox, and despite great early contributions from Tyrese Haliburton, if Fox’s hamstring injury keeps him out against the Raptors they’re losing a huge piece, and half of one of the NBA’s most potent pick n’ roll pairings. The other half, Richaun Holmes should be able to dominate the Raptors milquetoast center rotation no matter who gets the starting nod or the bulk of the minutes.

If you want more on Richaun Holmes and why he’s the most logical trade target for the Raptors this season click here. You’ll also get to read about my close proximity to one of Mexico’s highest profile assassination’s of the 21st century.  

“Holmes is a borderline top-60 player hiding in plain sight. He hasn’t dipped below 85th percentile in points-per-shot-attempt since his rookie year, flexing a remarkable short-roll pedigree that features one of the NBA’s most unique and potent floaters. He’s rugged at the rim and finishes above it. He’s got active hands to swat away and steal interior passes, he contests well at the rim, and he improves your rebounding on both sides of the floor. If that sounds like an extremely well-rounded big man to you, it’s because it is. And if the Kings don’t fancy themselves contenders this year, it would be wise to trade him because they likely won’t be able to match the offers he’ll receive in free agency this year due to cap restrictions.”

This game should provide clear insights to how the Raptors are defending the 3-point line. In past years they’ve been extremely successful at incentivizing middling or poor shooters into heavier attempts, while also suppressing stars. The Kings don’t shoot a lot of threes, so an adapting offensive game plan would be meaningful. Part and parcel of this approach is rapid rotations and close-outs. Pinch in on drives to deter rim pressure, and rely on length to create higher arc on passes for the Raptors range-y players to catch up in scramble closeouts. Backline brilliance from Marc Gasol in past years helped this style a lot, and early in this season it seems they’re missing a few too many rotations a game. Some troubling statistical trends via @bballport on twitter:

Stats like this are generally small-sample-size-theatre. Have the Raptors truly been so poor to allow 60-percent shooting on off-the-dribble threes? Certainly not. Could this indicate a defense that has lost some of it’s prowess in defending the three? It sure could. We need more data to round this thing out, but the eye-test says they’re jumbling rotations a bit more often.

Fred VanVleet and Lowry are still providing pseudo-All-Star, if not full blown All-Star guard play. Anunoby has come around in a big way. We’re all just waiting on the bench, and the center rotation. Until then, we’ll watch them try to beat up on these Kings.

Game Info

Tipoff: 10pm EST | TV: TSN | Radio: TSN1050

Raptors Lineups

Patrick McCaw (knee) is out.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Malachi Flynn, Terence Davis

SG: Fred VanVleet, Stanley Johnson, Matt Thomas, Jalen Harris

SF: OG Anunoby, Norman Powell, DeAndre’ Bembry

PF: Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, Yuta Watanabe, Paul Watson

C: Aron Baynes, Alex Len

Kings Lineups

De’Aaron Fox (hamstring) is questionable, Jabari Parker (covid-protocol) is out, DaQuan Jeffries is out.

PG: De’Aaron Fox, Cory Joseph

SG: Buddy Hield, Tyrese Haliburton, Kyle Guy, Jahmi’us Ramsey

SF: Harrison Barnes, Glenn Robinson III, Justin James, Robert Woodard

PF: Marvin Bagley, Nemanja Bjelica, Chimezie Metu

C: Richaun Holmes, Hassan Whiteside

Have a blessed day.

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