For the second time this year, the Raptors will face old friend and foe Vince Carter on a Sunday afternoon at 3:30pm. If recent history is due to repeat itself, the Raptors will emerge victorious. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. This Raptors’ season has been a whirlwind of surprises, from random Lowry surges and halts to the young bench’s emergence as an often prosperous yet equally puzzling enigma. Nobody knows how the Raptors will perform on any given day, but let’s analyze this game anyway.
The Kings are, in a way, a bizarro-world version of the Raptors. You might think I’m crazy, but just hear me out. Imagine a roster equipped with a centre that isn’t quite fit for the modern NBA, a young, quick point guard with shooting troubles, a lights-out three-point specialist, a potential 3&D star athlete and an overload of raw, but talented big men. Does that roster sound familiar? It should, because that description could equally describe both the Kings and the Raptors. Of course, I’m ignoring that the Raptors additionally have two all-star guards and a recent history of success, but I digress. It’s almost poetic that the Kings were on the other (and less fortunate) side of the infamous Rudy Gay trade.
After completing an arduous road trip that saw a disheartening loss, everything was all gravy when the Raptors returned home and crushed their former rival, the Brooklyn Nets. Delon Wright returned, Norman Powell returned to form and the team’s backcourt stars excelled. The Raptors will look to keep this train rolling against the Sacramento Kings this afternoon. The Kings, having lost three of their last four games, will look to showcase their developing talent and hopefully come away with a W.
Where to Watch
TSN at 3:30pm
Raptors - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Kings - George Hill, Buddy Hield, Garrett Temple, Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein (we assume), because:
Per @mr_jasonjones: Kings will be without De'Aaron Fox (right thigh bruise) and Zach Randolph (rest) vs the Raptors today.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) December 17, 2017
Raptors - Lucas Nogueira
Kings – De’Aaron Fox (doubtful), Malachi Richardson (GTD), Harry Giles
(Update: Bogdan Bogdanovic is likely replacing Buddy Hield in the starting lineup)
Defend the Perimeter
The Kings are a shockingly good three-point shooting team, efficiency-wise. Unfortunately for them, they don’t take a ton of shots from long range. In response, the Raptors must contest the shots they do take. This feat is perfectly manageable, especially considering the return of the Raptors’ lankiest backcourt defender, Delon Wright.
This is also a perfect opportunity for Norman Powell, who has looked shaky on defense lately, to get his mojo back. It certainly appeared that his confidence has returned after playing an efficient game against the Nets; hopefully, he’ll be sharp and looking for redemption today. His tenacity on defense has been missed, and coupled with Wright, Buddy Hield should have some trouble on his hands.
Is it 2004 Again?
Aside from the barrage of three-pointers we can expect the Raptors to take, this game is sure to satiate Charles Barkley’s old-school basketball craving. Averaging nearly 31 minutes per game in his last seven outings, Zach Randolph will likely see more than a few battles in the post against Jonas Valanciunas (Wait, updated below). While lumbering limbs fill the paint, newer fans of the game will get a chance to experience what basketball was like before advanced analytics proved that three-point shooting is indeed a good thing.
Note: this was written before it was announced Randolph won’t be playing tonight. Still with Cauley-Stein trying his best, and the likes of Kosta Koufas in there to mix it up. JV will likely still have his hands full.
Young, Wild and Free
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the teams’ rosters are comprised largely of inexperienced, yet talented young players. Unfortunately, De’Aaron Fox is unlikely to play after exiting his previous game with a quad injury, so that dampens the game’s excitement quite a bit.
Still, Willie Cauley-Stein insists that his skill level is on par with Kristaps Porzingis, so we can expect Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl to shut the imposter down like they did the real unicorn. In a game full of diverse players, both in terms of styles and ages, we should expect to see, at the very least, some entertainment. The Raptors should, in all likelihood, come away with the win, assuming they can adequately defend opposing three-point shots, bring consistent energy and win their post battles.