So this is what an NBA practice looks like!
Wow...I've seen some ugly games...but that was just barely more viewable than some of the recent Britney Spears photos.
Ok...let's jump into this mudpile shall we?
A Numbers Game – 42 to 29
You could go with a lot of numbers in this game - but I'll start with the rebounding discrepancy, one in favour of the Raps for once.
Toronto absolutely destroyed Sacramento on the glass, both on the defensive and offensive ends, and this was one of the main reasons for the win. The two teams had nearly identical stats in terms of field goals, 3 pointers and free throws made and attempted and therefore similar percentages in each category. However Toronto got second chance points and set the tone of the game with their rebounding.
19 and 20
Toronto also got lots of help from a "slightly" disorganized Kings offence. Sacto had 20 turnovers and only 19 assists. Toronto by contrast did have a fairly unusual 14 turnovers, but compensated with 34 assists and some excellent ball movement.
The Turning Point –
It's tough to say what the turning point was in this game. The Raptors trailed after the first half on some sloppy play but blew things open in the second quarter. They kept that up in the third and for most of the fourth in what amounted to a casual shoot-around in the end.
Really though, the turning point in this one wasn't so much a specific point in time, but Sacramento's offensive execution. Both teams played nary a lick of defence the majority of the game, it was simply that the Raptors looked like a team that wasn't trying to adjust to the return of three of their go-to players.
Night and day is too similar compared to this game and the one against Detroit.
Moving on to the heat check...
Temperature Check –
Hot – Carlos Delfino.
Del the Funky Homosapien gave us a glimpse of what could be a major weapon in Toronto's arsenal...and another reason for BC to make his re-signing a priority. I expect Delfino to still be inconsistent this season, but considering his all around abilities, it's tough to find many other players in the league that can do what he does.
And what he does is a bit of everything.
On this night he scored a career-high 26 points off the bench, had seven rebounds, six assists, and four steals while going five of seven from beyond the arc, going eight of 11 from the field and hitting all five of his free throws.
Yep, I guess he deserves a spot in the "hot" category.
Hot – Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon.
I've lumped these two together as both had great games for Toronto. Bosh only took 12 shots but hit 11 of them and was nine of 10 from the line to go along with his nine rebounds. Jose had an uncharacteristic three turnovers early on, but settled down the troops, made the extra pass, and was aggressive in looking to score finishing with 17 and 14.
Both players got bonus "heat points" for taking charge of the game for the Raptors in the second and third quarters to grab the W. You can see just how much these two have grown together as players these past few years, and their comraderie and jokes (at whose expense I'm not sure) on the bench was evidence of this.
Lukewarm – Andrea Bargnani.
While Andrea didn't silence his critics last night, he did have his best game in a while. His shot from long-range was still off but he was much more effective in other areas finishing with seven points and six rebounds. It's not Dwight Howard numbers, but it's a start.
We've been discussing on the site the past while about whether or not Bargs should be playing the 5, and if he has what it takes to be a center, but watching him last night I realized something else. Bargs is a lot like Delfino at this stage - both play best when they let the game come to them, and they are able to freestyle to a certain degree in the offense. There were numerous examples of this last night from some low-post moves (gasp!) that looked more than comfortable and some great passes leading eventually to open shots for teammates.
Don't get me wrong, he's got a ways to go. But this game and the next two could go a long ways to reaclimatizing the big soph.
Hot – Kevin Martin and Mike Bibby.
"Attention Fantasy shoppers, Kevin Martin and Mike Bibby are once again available in aisle 10!"
Most fantasy players who've had these two guys had them safely stowed away for their respective returns. The Kings don't exactly play much defence so in all likelyhood they'll get the green light to fire away. And considering together last night they had 42 points in 58 minutes, I'd say both aren't going to be suffering any ill effects from their injuries.
No, these two were Sacto's best performers offensively but the key will be for Kings' coach Reggie Theus to successfully indoctrinate them back in a lineup featuring a gaggle of scorers.
And for trade purposes, we haven't even gotten into Ron Artest so this team bears keeping an eye on.
Moving On –
While this was a laugher of a game in the end, which was good as it allowed me to catch my Blue Devils win a much-too-close affair with Florida State, this in many ways was a huge win.
Sacramento came out guns blazing and like Steve McQueen in the Magnificent Seven, the Raptors fired back. They also got their offense going in a similar manner to their attack of last year - something they hadn't been able to do in over a month.
In addition, the Raptors bounced back from an ugly loss to the Pistons the night before showing some mental toughness.
Part of this was catching the right team at the right time, as you could see how lost the Kings were on O last night. On a number of occasions the Sacto players could be seen arguing about executing plays, not something you should be seeing in an NBA game.
But Toronto made sure they adhered to our previous "3 keys," and finished things off early. Joey Graham, Juan Dixon, and Darrick Martin all got to play, a sign that the lead was definitely safe in the end.
The Raptors now have a light practice today before taking on the Hawks and 76ers back to back. The Hawks are currently competing with Toronto for a playoff spot so this match will be an important one. The 76ers have been up and down in the post-Billy King era but can't be slept on either.
With Orlando and New Jersey struggling, and Cleveland and Atlanta being inconsistent, two wins for the Raptors would go a long way towards locking down a firm hold on one of the more coveted playoff spots from 3 to 5.
It would also go a long way to readying this team for their final match against the Celtics, a week from last night.