3 In The Key - Toronto Raptors Game Day Preview vs. Sacramento

It's Superbowl Sunday, but before the big game the Raps have a matinee affair against the rebuilding Sacramento Kings.

The Raps need to take care of business before settling in for some wings, chicken fingers and a few cold ones.

After a few days off the Raptors are back in action as they continue through their favorable schedule.

Up next? The 16-33 Sacramento Kings.

Sunday will also mark the return of Hedo Turkoglu...although there is some debate as to whether he will or won't be wearing a protective mask to help protect his recently fractured orbital bone. Despite team and doctor requests Hedo is apparently reluctant to make like Rip Hamilton. The $52 million dollar man seems to think comfort is more important than protecting his employers investment. What a team player! Last time I checked you do what your employer tells you to do, in particular when it is in your best interests. Anyone who disagrees is simply a bad employee. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

The Raps are also expecting DeMar DeRozan to be back in the action on Sunday and as a result the Raps will have their starting line-up back. Kudos to guys like Antoine Wright and Sonny Weems who filled in admirably while their teammates were on the shelf, but this team is at it's best when it is at full strength. The more depth the better. Hopefully by the time All-Star weekend rolls around the team will again be playing with a full deck.

The Raps opponent today is not one the team faces often. To get the lowdown on the Kings situation I reached out to Tom at Sactown Royalty for this weeks installment of Blogging with the Enemy.

HQ: The Kings are obviously in a rebuilding stage and they have some good young pieces, however all of the uncertainty around the team seems to center on whether these pieces fit. What's your take on the Kings roster to date and what needs to be done to ensure a bright future?

 Unfortunately, both the backcourt and frontcourt are unsettled right now. In the backcourt, everyone's wondering if Tyreke Evans and Kevin Martin will fit. I believe so, but the jury's out. They've had some wonderful games since Martin's return, and they've had some bad games. I anticipate Martin's here until at least the end of the season, so we'll see how it works out. In the frontcourt, the team is still trying to figure out whether Jason Thompson is a long-term starter, and whether Spencer Hawes is a future star. Thompson started beautifully this year but has really fallen apart confidence-wise. Hawes is the classic hot-cold youngster. We'll see.

HQ: Talk about Jason Thompson. Here's a guy who started off the season red hot and looked to be making the jump to the next level. Now he is struggling badly? What has changed? Who is the real Jason Thompson?

I wish we knew which J.T. was real. I bet he wishes the same. He seems like such a creature of confidence -- pretty common on this team, actually -- that you can tell the slump is shaking him. I think at this point I'd call him an energy player with bad luck. He's just not getting the bounces he got in November consistently any more, and that hurts his effort -- not everyone is Dwyane Wade, not everyone gets up after every blow. Some of us, and I think J.T. qualifies, thinks about why the fell instead of moving on. I hope the coaching staff can implore him to change that, because he's nothing without that fire.

HQ: What are the keys to the game for the Kings to steal a win against the Raps?

The keys, I think, will be challenging Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani to put the ball on the floor or pass. Bosh can still dominate when crowded; I'm not sure Bargnani can do that consistently. The Kings have had real trouble shutting down shooting big men (Jeff Green torches us!), so I'm not particularly hopeful in this respect. I'm of the mind that against Toronto, you take your chances letting Hedo Turkoglu run the team. He doesn't shoot particularly well at this point, and he's not fast enough to get uncontested looks in the paint. He's creative as all heck, but I'd prefer to be defending creativity instead of Bosh's dominance. 

The Kings do have some nice pieces but the Raps should really take care of business. It's an exceptionally early game for the Kings players and playing matinee games has really become an advantage as of late.

Here are the three keys:

1. Own the Painted Area: As mentioned by Tom, the Kings front court is very inconsistent and the Raps cannot allow players like Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes get into a groove. The game plan early should be to feed Bosh and Bargnani in the paint and let them run wild. The Kings have no answer for either of these players and should be the focus of the Raps attack. In that same vein, settling for jump shots is just not acceptable. Attack, attack, attack.

2. Perimeter D: The Kings do have some great talent at the PG and SG spots. Tyreke Evans has easily been this teams best player and looks to be a lock for ROY at this point. He can break guys off the bounce, attack at will and is developping a good consistent J. Meanwhile his backcourt mate, Kevin Martin, is a scoring machine who makes a living at the charity stripe. Both these guys will be looking to attack the rim at every opportunity and it will be up to the Raps wing players to force them to settle for outside contested jumpers.

3. Second Unit Play: The Raps now have some of their depth back and if guys like Sonny Weems, Antoine Wright and Amir Johnson can keep the pedal to the metal while the starters take a breather this should be one of the easier wins of the season. The Kings just don't have the same talent as the Raps and this should be very evident when the bench players get involved.

Enjoy the game, it looks to be a great Sunday for sports fans.

Saints or Colts?

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