After polishing off the Utah Jazz on Monday night, the Toronto Raptors continue their West Coast road swing by making a stop in Sacramento tonight to take on the Kings and...
Yes, the Raps are in for a tough test tonight as they face their old foe Gray, one of the best clutch scorers in the league who famously underperformed during his time in Toronto.
Remove the "r" and...
Of course we're talking about Rudy here, the player who's actually been fairly solid since being dealt to Sacramento posting averages of 21 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists all the while shooting over 50 per cent from the field. However his Kings' team hasn't exactly done the same 180 that Toronto has in the wake of the trade as the Kings have gone 10 and 18 while Toronto has won 20 of 30 matches.
So tonight represents an opportunity for Gay to get a bit of revenge and while the Kings have only 16 wins on the season, as they showed Monday night against Chicago, can exploded offensively on any given night.
Here are our three keys to a Toronto win:
1) Valanciunas vs Cousins: This is the biggie for me. DeMarcus Cousins is having a gangbuster season averaging 23 points, 12 rebounds and a block on the season, with a nice little PER of 26.7. He's a monster in the paint, and the very type of big man that Jonas Valanciunas has struggled with during his short career. Keeping Cousins relatively in check tonight will be key as a big game from him inside could open up opportunities for the Kings' bevy of gunners from Marcus Thornton to Jimmer Fredette.
2) DeMar DeRozan: By all accounts it sounds like right now, Kyle Lowry is a go. Lowry of course sat out the end of Monday night's win in Utah due to knee soreness, but he reassured fans and media that it wasn't a serious injury. Nevertheless, if he's still not 100%, we might see another outing like his first half in Utah, where he struggled to score and wasn't his usual self. Against the Jazz that was ok but the Kings are a more dangerous team offensively and the Raps will likely need more baskets.
Enter DeMar. DeRozan showed off his improved fourth quarter game once more on Monday, going on a solo seven-point run to essentially close the book on the Jazz, and the Raps will need lots more of that tonight. (Especially if Terrence Ross continues to be inconsistent.) He may be guarded by a smaller player like Thornton or Fredette for stretches so it would also be great to see him take advantage and use his post-up game.
3) Defence: The Raptors and Kings are actually neck-and-neck in terms of offensive efficiency so the key to this one will likely be at the other end. While Sacramento can put points on the board in a hurry, they also giving them up just as fast. The Kings are averaging nearly 102 points per game but are giving up an average of 103.8 points, and sit second-last in the league in terms of defensive efficiency.
Toronto did a nice job shutting the door on Utah and will need to do the same tonight to make sure Rudy Gay and the Kings don't walk away with a surprise win.