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Raptors Return Home To Take On DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings

After an impressive win over the Heat, the Raptors look to rebuild a winning streak.

Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports

After a 1-2 road trip, the Raptors return home to take on the Sacramento Kings tonight. With news that DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas might be cleared to practice soon, the rest of the team need to continue holding down the fort until the reinforcements show up. A win at home against the Kings today would help.

Here are the keys to the game:

Boogie and Rondo

The Kings are 10-16 and could make the claim to be the most dysfunctional franchise in the league (I mean, at least the 76ers are actually trying to lose). DeMarcus Cousins got into a confrontation with George Karl in the locker room earlier this year, and last week, Rajon Rondo was suspended for one game after some very insensitive remarks towards referee Bill Kennedy. Here's the thing: both players have been very productive on the court this season. Cousins is one of the best forwards in the game, averaging 25.2 points and 10.7 rebounds. Rondo, after a tumultuous end in Dallas last season in which he was essentially sent home in the middle of a playoff series, is averaging 12.6 points, 11.1 assists and 6.8 rebounds. Rondo is on a one-year deal and given what he's done on the floor, should command a high salary, which might put the Kings in a tough position. They're the two players who make the Kings go. But so far this season, that has resulted in them being out of the playoff race once again.

Terrence Ross On The Rise

That's three straight double-digit scoring games for Ross, who has hit five three-pointers in each of his last two games. On the season, Ross has just six double-digit scoring games, so this is an encouraging sign, especially with the team shorthanded. The question as always with Ross, is whether this is just another positive blimp or if it will build into something more sustainable, on both ends of the floor.

Kyle Lowry's Minutes

On the other hand, Lowry's coming off a 6-for-29 performance in Charlotte earlier this week and is shooting 40.3 percent from the field in December. More worrisome are the minutes. Lowry's played more than 34 minutes in every game so far in December, and over 38 minutes four times. A lot of that is owing to the Raptors and their slow starts, which means they've had to lean on Lowry in the second half, and some of that is injuries, and a little of it is simply the Raptors are a better team when Lowry's on the floor, and can't afford to have him on the bench for long stretches. Add it all up, and the same questions remain: can the Raptors keep Lowry fresh enough for when the playoffs start?

Where to watch: 6:00 pm est, Sportsnet One