Toronto Raptors Game Preview: Raptors vs. Kings


Toronto Raptors Game Preview: Raptors vs. Kings

Led by DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, the Toronto Raptors overcame a sluggish start to defeat the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night for their third consecutive victory.

The defence looked good and the offence came around after the first quarter as Toronto reached the 30-win mark before All-Star break for the first time in franchise history.

Tonight the Raptors will turn their attention to the Sacramento Kings, who are mired in a six-game losing skid.

These teams met on Dec. 2 in California, but the Kings team that took the court that night was vastly different from the one Toronto will see tonight. Standout big man DeMarcus Cousins was sidelined due to an illness and Tyrone Corbin has taken over coaching duties from the fired Michael Malone.

Sacramento is well-rested and in dire need of a victory, so Dwane Casey’s group will be in tough this evening at the Air Canada Centre.

Key to Victory #1: Don’t press the snooze button

We’ve all done it before. As tempting as it is to go back to sleep, the Raptors must, figuratively speaking, be ready to get up and go this evening. Toronto had a sluggish start last night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and they cannot afford a similar opening quarter against the Kings. Sacramento ranks inside the top 10 in terms of first-quarter scoring at 26 points per game, so if the starters are unable to bring the energy early, the Raptors could find themselves trying to dig out of a hole all night.

Feb 5, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) puts up a shot against Toronto Raptors power forward Chuck Hayes (44) during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Sacramento Kings defeated the Toronto Raptors 109-101. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Key to Victory #2: Attack Cousins

Cousins is having a monstrous season, averaging 24.2 points and 12.6 rebounds per night while shooting 48 percent from the field and 80 percent from the line. The should-be-all-star has already amassed 26 double-doubles in 2014-15 despite only suiting up for 31 contests. What’s the best way to limit his impact on the game? Make him ride the pine. Cousins leads the NBA in fouls per game at 4.3. The opportunity will be there for the Raptors to rack up the fouls on ‘Boogie’ if they keep an aggressive mindset.

Key to Victory #3: Don’t let Stauskas heat up

The pride of Mississauga, Ont., rookie Nik Stauskas has had a rough start to his NBA career. Stauskas is shooting a measly 35 percent on the season, including an underwhelming 28 percent from three-point land. However, a shooting stroke as smooth as the one the 21-year-old showed at the University of Michigan does not just disappear. Playing in front of his friends and family, Stauskas could be poised for a big night. If he can find a rhythm from long-range, watch out.

Marquee Matchup: DeMar DeRozan vs. Rudy Gay

Feb 5, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings small forward Rudy Gay (8) attempts to steal the ball from Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan (10) during the first quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

DeRozan is back, ladies and gentleman. The aggressiveness Raptors fans have come to expect from their star wing player has been on display the past two outings as DeRozan has attempted 23 free throws in that span. His jumper, although frustrating to watch at times, seems to be dropping as well and he is looking more and more like the version of himself that earned an all-star birth a season ago. Tonight the former USC Trojan will match up with a familiar foe in Rudy Gay. The ex-Raptor is having a renaissance of sorts in Sacramento, averaging a career-high 20.2 points on a fairly efficient 45 percent clip from the field. Gay has also improved his playmaking abilities, dishing out a career-best 4.1 assists per game. Both of these players can flat-out score, so if each of them is able to get going, viewers will be in for a Wednesday night delight.

Prediction: The signs point to Sacramento stealing this game on the road. The Kings are desperate for a W and have been off since Friday thanks to the “storm” that shut down the city of New York. On the other hand, Toronto is playing the second night of a back-to-back. That being said, it is hard to bet against the Raptors if they turn in a performance similar to the one that was on display in Indiana. This should be a hard-fought game that comes down to the wire, but look for the home team to squeak out a win.