Leading the way was an ultra-efficient DeMar DeRozan, who had 25 points on 15 shots, making 7-of-11 from the free throw line. He also added a season-best nine assists, as he was eager to share it in his minutes on the floor.
Also sensational was Serge Ibaka, who continues to thrive in this rest-heavy portion of the schedule. The big man had 20 points, four rebounds, and was a team-best +25. Importantly, he made 4-of-7 three point attempts when nobody else on the team could buy one from deep.
Oh, and Kyle Lowry? He had the best night possible for someone shooting 4-for-17, with 15 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, and plenty of Lowry Energy Plays™ — including his league-best 18th and 19th charges taken. (Did you know Willie Reed, of all people, is second with ten? I digress.)
Coming in, it was clear the early start was hurting the home team. The Kings came out slow and the Raptors’ starters pounced, the second good start for them in as many games. Thanks to dominating play inside by Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto ripped off a 17-2 run to start the game.
Surprisingly, it was the usually reliable second unit that wavered first. An all-bench lineup of Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, CJ Miles, Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl struggled to score. On the other side, a frenzied effort by the Kings bench, led by the sharpshooting Buddy Hield, got them back in the game. Hield would finish with 17 on 7-for-13 shooting, and was more timely than anything in keeping the Kings at the Raptors’ heels.
Toronto’s bench struggled to win minutes in this one, overall — and I give credit to Sacramento for that. Their defense was excellent at packing the paint, with Kosta Koufos presenting size and the flailing arms of JaKarr Sampson making life difficult for Siakam and Poeltl inside. Many of those brilliant VanVleet-and-a-big pick and rolls that usually work for Toronto were stifled, as the Kings collapsed and allowed Powell and Miles space to shoot. Miles was just 1-for-8 from three, and that was a major reason why the unit struggled.
With just an eight-point lead at half, Dwane Casey staggered Lowry and DeRozan’s minutes more in the second half. A long, painful review early in the third quarter (DeRozan exchanged some shoves, nothing was called) allowed Toronto’s starters some active rest, and allowed them to play over eight uninterrupted minutes. Finishing the frame was DeRozan and the bench. DeMar helped draw attention and create breathing room for the young guys, and that helped spur the Raps to a 10-1 run.
They were able to hold the line in the fourth quarter. Zach Randolph made a valiant effort, plowing through Valanciunas, Poeltl, Ibaka, and Lowry in that order to put up 19 points on 9-for-11 shooting. If the Kings had gone to Randolph more, the Raptors might’ve really been in trouble.
Instead, it was Toronto’s bigs that got some headlines. Both Valanciunas and Poeltl made threes — for the latter, it was his first make in as many tries (college included, hat tip to Sean Woodley for the research). Watch the beauty unfold.
this JV 3 actually looked nice pic.twitter.com/W4rGua8EHl— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) December 10, 2017
The win is the Raptors’ sixth straight. They’re 17-7, hanging on to second in the East ahead of a storming Cavaliers team, and will wrap their current road trip with games against the Clippers (Monday) and Suns (Wednesday).