What a difference a year makes.
Last night's win wasn't quite as dramatic as the Raps' overall turnaround, but it was another solid indicator of their progress. With Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan going a combined 6-24 from the floor (they still contributed from a distribution standpoint) the Raps were able to lean on a balanced scoring attack. Terrence Ross had 18 points -- all of them coming from downtown -- Jonas Valanciunas was solid offensively with 14, and the awesome Patrick Patterson dropped 15 off the bench.
Overall the Raps shot 47% from 3-point range, and had 21 assists on 34 made field-goals. In contrast the Kings went 5-19 from downtown, and had 17 turnovers to just 14 helpers -- yeah, that's not going to get it done. DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings in points (24) and bad body language; and Rudy Gay, back in Toronto for the first time since that earth-shattering (for the Raps, at least) December 8th trade, was quiet -- 15 points on 5-13 shooting. Thankfully the booing wasn't at a Vince Carter decibel level, but it was -- idiotically -- still audible. Why some fans felt the need to boo a guy who didn't choose either to come to Toronto, or to leave the city, is beyond me. But moving on...
The Raps came into this game having not played since the previous Sunday, but there was no sign of rust early on -- both teams looked good early, in fact. However, the quarter turned on a lazy reach-in foul by Cousins (the guy doesn't move his feet on defense), his second foul of the game. Mike Malone was forced to sit his main man, and the Raps opened the game up thereafter. Patterson put the Raptors up by 7 with a 3-pointer, and DeRozan drove and got to the line a number of times, putting up 8 points in the first quarter. The Raps led by 10 after 12 minutes of play, shooting 55% from the field, and holding the Kings to just 36% shooting.
The second quarter was the Raps' worst of the game, however. After Patterson nailed another 3, and John Salmons hit a jumper to put the Rap up by 13, the Kings went on a 10-2 run to bring them within 5, and Casey was forced to take a timeout. Throughout the second quarter the Kings were able to get into the paint at will -- whether it was their bigs posting up deep, or their guards -- Isaiah Thomas and Ray McCallum Jr., in particular -- driving through the lane. The Kings scored 26 points in the paint in the first half, and the game was becoming a bit of stop-start foul-fest -- not a good sign considering what happened when the teams met in Sacramento last month.
But after the timeout the Raps turned the tide somewhat. Ross drilled a 3, as did Lowry a couple possessions later. The Raps led by 7 at the half, but Malone and the Kings would've been reasonably pleased considering that Cousins had played just 9 minutes.
In the 3rd quarter the Raps cleaned things up. After Boogie threw the ball out of bounds on the Kings' first possession of the second half, Ross nailed another 3 to put the Raps up by 10. Then Patterson dropped a trifecta to put the Raps up by a dozen. Thomas and DeRozan exchanged buckets, before Ross hit another 3 -- again, coming off a screen that the Kings defenders seemed unable or uninterested in fighting through -- to put the Raps up by 15.
At the other end, despite the fact that Boogie looked moody, and all-around disinterested, he was still essentially un-guardable -- the Raps triple-teamed at one point in the game. Un-guardable until Casey put Chuck Hayes in the game, that is. Hayes finished the quarter on Boogie, and once again proved that even the very best offensive big-men have major issues backing him down in the low-post. Hayes forced a visibly frustrated Cousins into making two turnovers. Note: Chuck Hayes DOES NOT skip leg day.
The Raps ended the 3rd quarter with a Patterson put-back, after a Salmons miss. Up 17, heading into the fourth, this game was essentially over. More great defense -- and the Kings' inability to make a basic entry pass -- led to a Salmons-Patterson break away in transition (the ex-Kings had fun last night). That Patterson dunk put the Raps up by 21 and it was a mere formality after that. Jonas had some nice reps going at Boogie in the post, Landry Fields and Nando de YOLO! got some minutes, and the Kings brought the score to something bordering on respectability. And that was that.
The Raps move 8 games over .500, on a night in which the Bulls and Nets both lost. Good stuff. The team will face a much stiffer test on Sunday, however, with Kevin Love and the 'feast or famine' Timberwolves in town.
Additional Game Notes
- Patrick Patterson was awesome last night. Just awesome. The guy did a bit of everything. His value in restricted free agency is probably going up by the game, and I'm not so sure he's a luxury the Raps are going to be able to afford. But it's been great watching him this season whatever happens.
- Boogie Cousins is a scary basketball player. His body language and lazy defense would drive me bonkers if I was a Kings fans, but he sulked his way through last night's game and still put up 24 points and 7 rebounds in just 27 minutes of play. Hayes slowed him down in the 3rd, but he's basically un-guardable in the low-post.
- Speaking of Chuck: I'm convinced that his lower-body is made of titanium. His upper-body? Yeah, not made of titanium.
- Thankfully Reggie Evans can't shoot free-throws (2-10 last night), but he's a huge pain-in-the-ass when he's on the floor. 10 rebounds in the first half, plus 10 shots to his opponent's groin (I'm assuming).
- The Raps shot the ball well from downtown, but the Kings did a horrible job closing out on shooters. Ben McLemore put up some real rookie defense last night.
- Kyle Lowry's going through a shooting slump right now. He still contributes in so many other ways, but it's something to watch/get irrationally concerned about if you have a lot of free time (like I do).
- Sign of the apocalypse: Raptors fans (a minority) booing because 99 points and a win equals no free pizza. *Deep(dish pizza) Sigh*
- Saving the most profound tidbit for last: The HQ's Harsh Dave pointed out that Brad Pitt and Jack Armstrong are the same age, which is hard to believe. Also -- sticking with a belated Oscars theme -- Jared Leto is just 9 years younger than Jack. Yeah, time for me to go to bed.