Toronto, the entire city, is flying high this morning. Our MLS soccer team, Toronto FC, just won the title; mere weeks ago the Toronto Argonauts won the Grey Cup of the CFL (it’s a thing). And before that, the Toronto Wolfpack ran the table in Rugby League (third division). To bring it all full circle back to basketball: the 905 kicked us off with a (the final) D-League title, given out this past spring. Folks, we truly are a City of Champions.
Reason number one has often been DeMarcus Cousins — now on the Pelicans. Reason number two has sometimes, or at least one specific time, been because of a rogue timekeeper — now presumably fired? Reason three... I don’t know, voodoo curse?
Anyway, here are your details for this afternoon’s game. Oh yeah, it’s on at 3:30pm!
Where to Watch
Sportsnet One at 3:30pm (yes, 3:30!)
Raptors - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Kings - De’Aaron Fox, George Hill, Garrett Temple, JaKarr Sampson, Zach Randolph (But really, you try to figure it out — their lineup changes every game!)
Raptors - Delon Wright, Lucas Nogueira
Kings - Willie Cauley-Stein (questionable), Harry Giles (without question)
Familiar Faces of the Past
The Kings have a bunch of our old friends. For one, Zach Randolph, who has somehow graduated to elder statesman of an old school league, will be looking to assert himself here. He’s coming of a monster 35 point, 13 rebound performance against Boogie and the Pellies on Friday night. Z-Bo is also leading the Kings in scoring with a whopping 15 points per game. Watch out.
But then we move down the list. There’s sad-faced George Hill, former Pacer and wrecker of the Raptors back court, and currently listlessly playing out the string in northern Cali. Not sure why he chose to sign in Sacramento if he was going to be in such a funk, but such is life.
And finally, of course, Vince Carter. Yes, the Raptors get to take on Vince Carter once again. We’ll be thinking about Vince Carter in Toronto for the rest of our lives. Enjoy!
Watch the Start
If the Kings somehow manage to jump out to something resembling a lead in the first quarter, sound the alarm. The Raptors are currently ranked 10th in first quarter offensive rating, 16th in first quarter defensive rating, and 11th in resultant net rating in the opening frame. Not bad, but not great — especially given the fact they’re ranked third overall in the league for net rating for the entire game.
The Kings, meanwhile — and brace yourself for this — are bad! Last in offense, 11th in defense (for what good that does you if you can’t score), and 28th in net rating for the first quarter. It takes them a little while to find the basket is the conclusion to draw here.
While the Raptors seem to have moved on from their third quarter collapses (for now), the first 12 minutes are still a bit sluggish at times. Let’s see if they can blow the Kings away from the jump.
Who Helps Out This Time?
Ah, now we come to my favourite part of watching the Raptors: predicting who will run buck wild on the opposing team and turn things around or on for Toronto. Let’s call it a mini-City of Champions tournament: will Kyle Lowry decide he’s had enough and strangle the Kings himself? Will DeMar DeRozan, with nary a worthwhile defender around, casually go for 30? Or will it be the bench?
Though the individual numbers of Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, and Norman Powell are nothing of note, but combined (as part of an all-bench unit, or mixed in with Lowry and DeRozan) they can make or break teams. Folks, it continues to be thrilling to watch. Against Memphis they helped turn the tide — with the help of some maniacal defense from honourary bench player OG Anunoby — and one or more of these guys has been the story for some time now in Toronto.
Who’s your pick as fun game-changer tonight? Make a choice and let’s watch.