The Toronto Raptors are humming along right now. Sure, there’s been deficiencies in their game here and there — bad turnovers, stretches of isolation, a few injuries. None of it seems to affect the bottom line, though, as Toronto keeps finding ways to win.
Credit it to being a really, really good team. The Raptors were able to be just that tonight, withstanding a few runs from an energetic Sacramento Kings squad to win 114-105. The win caps a sweep of this four-game road trip, as the Raptors now return home to play New York on Saturday night.
Toronto improves to 11-1 with the win, while Sacramento falls to 6-5.
If you were unfamiliar with the Kings heading into this one, their early play was an accurate portrayal of how they’ve surprised this season.
Sacramento was energetic on defence all night, forcing Toronto into more difficult situations than they faced against the Lakers or the Jazz. On the other end, point guard De’Aaron Fox got off to a quick start, as the Raptors started the game with three turnovers leading to Fox scoring seven of the first nine Kings points.
Fox is becoming a problem for teams around the league, as he showed off the three-point shot he’s added to lightning quickness in this one, making 2-of-4 looks. Fox would finish with 20 points and four assists in 36 minutes, but the Raptors did a pretty good job of limiting his helpers.
Namely this played out in the matchup of Pascal Siakam and Nemanja Bjelica. The latter came in averaging 14.4 points per game, but it was quickly apparent that Siakam was going to annoy the hell out of him. Repeated spin moves, a few ticky tack fouls, and a hearty second quarter Raptors run later, and Bjelica had all but mentally checked out of the game. In 19 minutes, he had zero points on 0-for-5 shooting and four fouls, severely hampering the upside for the Kings. Siakam, on the other hand, was excellent with 21 points on 11 shots, adding three rebounds, two steals, and an assist. Chalk it up to another opponent that’s struggled guarding Siakam’s inside-outside game.
Thanks to Pascal’s great first half, where he carried the second unit to start the second quarter and continued to play well as Nick Nurse transitioned back to the starters, the Raptors were able to build a lead and head into the halftime break up 64-51.
In the third quarter, Kings guard Buddy Hield came alive to chip into the Raptors lead. Hield would score 11 of his 24 points in the quarter, at one point making it a seven-point game to force a Raptors timeout.
Settling play from there was the returning Kawhi Leonard. Leonard came out of the timeout and powered Toronto to a 6-0 run, punctuated by him splitting the defence and throwing down a dunk.
Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight pic.twitter.com/Rxknp8BnRX— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 8, 2018
While Leonard appeared pretty rusty for stretches in this one — committing a team-high five turnovers — he was solid when the game was on the line. The Kings would once again cut the lead down against the Raptors bench midway through the fourth quarter, but Leonard settled down any threat with a three-point make late in the game. He would finish with a game-high 25 points, 11 rebounds, and two assists.
The Raptors now return home for three games, starting with the New York matinee on Saturday and followed by matchups with New Orleans and Dwane Case-errr.. the Detroit Pistons. That’s followed by a showdown with the Celtics in Boston on the 16th.
For now, the Raptors are rolling. Savour every minute of it.
Other Notes and Observations:
- Without C.J. Miles and Norman Powell tonight, Nurse tightened his rotation to essentially nine guys (Malachi Richardson came in for a nominal minute at the end). This ended up being a pretty good look, as transitional lineups were able to withstand the struggles of Delon Wright (0-for-3) and Fred VanVleet (3-for-9). While it taxes Kyle Lowry’s minutes a bit (35 tonight), it was fun to preview how the Raptors might change their look in big games.
- A really nice, under-the-radar game for OG Anunoby. He was back with the bench unit, but had 11 points and seven rebounds on 5-for-9 shooting. OG is getting better at being in the right place at the right time, self-creating offence through his three offensive boards. He was a game-high +13 and the play on the court bears that out.
- Kind of a weird, write-off night for the Raptors’ swapping bigs in Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas. Ibaka was making his jumper early, but neither big looked comfortable guarding the pick and roll with Fox and Willie Cauley-Stein. It allowed some easy Kings looks, but ultimately Toronto withstood it.