The Raptors hung with the Kings through three quarters but couldn't get any buckets when it mattered. The HQ's Scott Campsall delves into the Raptors struggles last night.
Heading into last night's contest against the Sacramento Kings the Toronto Raptors had split the first two games of their one and only back-to-back-to-back set of games of the season. The hope was, after an embarrassing loss in Washington, the team would be able tobounce back at home and defeat the struggling Kings.
Unfortunately hope is all it would turn out to be as the Kings took care of the Raptors in a sloppy game that featured two very tired teams.
The first half was a struggle for the Dinos who could not generate much offense; however they received a lift from a player that has struggled mightily this season.
We haven't said this very often this season but, the Raptors got a huge boost from Leandro Barbosa. Barbosa scored 16 of his team high 24 points in the first half and single handedly kept Toronto in the contest, taking and making some key shots for the club.
Toronto came out a tad sluggish to start the second half, but got things together and eventually led 60-55. The Raptors looked as though they had finally found their rhythm and actually looked comfortable for a stretch in that third quarter.
The lead, however, would not hold up, as the Kings responded with a couple of buckets, including a massive put-back by DeMarcus Cousins; but, in classic Cousins fashion, he received a technical foul for screaming and staring down Amir Johnson following the play, negating the momentum he had just produced for his team on the previous play.
At the end of the third the Raptors and Kings were tied at 63, a pretty positive outcome at that point for the Dinos, all things considered.
Late in the third quarter the Raptors were dealt a crushing blow when Andrea Bargnani left the game with a strained left calf and did not return. Although he struggled to make shots-he made just 2 of his 13 shot from the floor-he had 10 rebounds in only 26 minutes of action and finally showed a willingness to work on other parts of his game when his shot was not falling.
Casey has been riding Bargnani pretty hard thus far this season and this injury is perhaps a result of simply playing too many minutes in such a short period of time. Bargs, going for an MRI today, denied that of course, but it's hard not to think that his amount of playing time of late didn't factor into the calf issue. Nevertheless, losing Bargnani in the short term was definitely an issue for the Raptors in this game, a game where they needed an extra push on the offense that they just didn't have.
Not to mention helping out on DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins was an absolute terror. He scored 21 points, but more impressively, he grabbed 19 rebounds, including 5 of the offensive variety. Cousins was in beast mode all night, and was a handful for the Raptors interior defenders. Amir did a decent job early on, but got into foul trouble and just wasn't as effective in the second half without some help.
The Raptors kept it close down the stretch, but they just couldn't stay with Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans, who all made big contributions in crucial spots in the fourth quarter.
A great deal will be made of the Raptors playing on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back, but the bottom line is that the Dinos got outplayed by the Kings, who were also tired, and playing on the second night of a back-to-back. To use Toronto's fatigue as an excuse in this game would be a cop out. The Raptors turned the ball over far too many times, struggled to make shots and did not have an answer for Cousins in the post and on the boards. This was a game that the Raptors should have had; their effort, particularly on offense was disappointing.
Possibly the most disappointing Raptor on this night again unfortunately, was DeMar DeRozan. Derozan totaled only 13 points on 5 of 9 shooting from the floor, which would be considered a solid effort from a role player, but is not what this team needs from one of its supposed leaders and franchise pieces.
Last night would have been a perfect time for DeRozan to assert his dominance and show that he can be a go-to-guy with Bargnani out of the lineup. Instead, DeMar was a non factor, settling for a couple of jumpers, but ultimately shrinking when his team needed him the most.
Perhaps the lone bright spot for Toronto was Linas Kleiza, who scored 10 points in 14 minutes and provided the Dinos with a much needed spark off the bench. Kleiza's play was encouraging considering the severity of the injury he is coming off of, as well as this team's desperate need for a small forward that can shoot the ball.