The last time the Raptors played the Kings they were 11-1 and sat high atop the rest of the league. A couple months later, Toronto is now 35-13 and still largely on top of the league — with the Bucks, Warriors, and Nuggets all in the mix for the absolute number one spot.
And the Kings? Well, they’re hanging around! At 24-23, these are not quite the Kings of yesteryear. For comparison’s sake, last season’s version had 27 wins... for the year. This Kings team has some juice to them, is my point. And why not? They’ve apparently hit on a star with point guard De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield may actually be a good and useful shooter, and they’ve got a bunch of springy length in the frontcourt with Willie Cauley-Stein, Marvin Bagley, and Harry Giles — good things are happening. Yes, they’re still in 10th in the West, but that says more about its Beyond Thunderdome conditions than anything else.
The Raptors meanwhile are set to have their full starting lineup back tonight to take on this feisty Kings team. That means, yes, Kawhi Leonard is ready to go. Of course, in the previous contest between these two teams, the Raptors got 22 points off the bench from OG Anunoby and Jonas Valanciunas (11 apiece), both of whom will sit out tonight. Does that change the calculus? We’ll find out.
Here are your details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch:
TSN at 7pm EST
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka
Sacramento - De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Nemanja Bjelica, Willie Cauley-Stein, Iman Shumpert
Toronto - OG Anunoby (personal), Jonas Valanciunas (hand)
Sacramento - None? None!
Bench Production for Toronto
Without OG Anunoby and Jonas Valanciunas, the bench has been a tad thin, but has managed to score at a decent clip on this mini two-game win streak, notching 39 points against Phoenix and 44 against Memphis. Memorably, it’s been the much-maligned C.J. Miles leading the way, and that’s a trend the Raptors would love to see continue. In addition, Delon Wright has also looked a little more like himself, with 19 points, eight assists and four steals in the last two combined. Sacramento played yesterday, and this is game four of a six-game trip for them; meanwhile the Raptors are well-rested, so their depth should be a significant advantage in this one.
Keep the Shooting Going
The Raptors’ have had their three-point shooting struggles to date, but last game Danny Green made those struggles feel like a distant memory with his scorching-hot third quarter. Of course, one quarter doesn’t make a trend, so can the Raptors keep it up? Having Kawhi Leonard back in the lineup should help, and in theory Fred VanVleet’s shooting should shore up the bench but he’s been inconsistent at best this year. The Kings, though they’re only 22nd in the NBA in defensive rating, defend the three-point line fairly well (opponents shoot only 34.5% from downtown against the Kings, good for fifth in the league); if the Raptors can knock down some threes early they might be able to bury the tired Kings straight away.
Perimeter D at the Point of Attack
Speaking of struggles, the Raptors have had some difficulty with water-bug point guards, and De’Aaron Fox fits the bill. He’s fast as heck and averages 12.6 drives to the rim per game, scoring 7.5 points on 49% shooting on those drives. But more than that, it’s those mid-range floaters that guards like Fox, Jrue Holiday, Kyrie Irving, and D’Angelo Russell have in their arsenals that seem to give the Raptors a ton of trouble. The Raptors will need a strong effort on the perimeter to keep Fox and Buddy Hield in front of them, and not let them cause havoc on their way to the rim.