Good players make a difference. With the Kings' DeMarcus Cousins, this is quickly apparent. When he's on the floor, a look at advanced stats - plus/minus and the like - is not even necessary. The eye test shows you a team operating with a powerful and, at times terrifying, fulcrum. But when he sits (or, alternatively, sulks), the Kings struggle. No eye test necessary: just look at the final score.
The Raptors, meanwhile, do not have a player quite so immediately and apparently dominant. Toronto has talented players, obviously, with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry chief among them; but the virtues of their ability come to the fore in instances like this, games that can be quantified as team wins.
"This team is not about one guy, it's not about Terrence, it's not about Kyle, it's about the Toronto Raptors," said coach Dwane Casey after the game. "It's the only way we're gonna keep going, keep growing as a team."
For the first half, individual talent was grappling team play to a stand still. Led by our old friend Rudy Gay's 22 points, the game was tied after two quarters. But the second half was a different story. As Cousins began to flail hopelessly and the rest of the Kings fell apart, the Raptors went to work as a team.
While the leading scorer for the Raps tonight was the streak shooting Lou Williams (27 points on 7-for-16 shooting, including four 3s), it was the former Kings who displayed the most fire against their old team. Greivis Vasquez in particular seemed jazzed to drop points on Sacramento. He went off for 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting (including 4-of-5 from three) and chipped in six assists.
His big men counterparts, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes, also contributed. Patterson had 11 points (on 4-of-8 shooting, with three 3s) including a spirit killing alley-op finish from Lou in the second half. Hayes, meanwhile, only player 13 minutes but he did the job he was supposed to do: frustrate DeMarcus Cousins. To that end, with the big man finishing with only 13 points and four rebounds (to go with nine turnovers), mission accomplished. Hayes even blocked DMC to further cement the drubbing.
"Chuck does so much for us, man. People don't see it because he doesn't score," said Vasquez afterwards. "He's one of those leaders that you don't really see, but he's a big time piece for our team."
Soon Kyle Lowry will be in the NBA All-Star game, and DeMar DeRozan will be back to consistently putting up All-Star numbers. We'll talk about Jonas Valanciunas' future and Terrence Ross' potential. But it's these games that remind you that it's all got to add up to something; hopefully, something like a complete team. Tonight, with the shots falling and players smiling, the Raptors may not have had the best player, but they were definitely the best team.
What did you guys think of the game?