Two teams in a tailspin will meet up tonight at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, and only one will get the chance to pull up and out of misery. That’s the situation for the Raptors and Kings, as the visiting Toronto team has lost three straight and Sacramento has lost five of six.
While neither can say they had solid dreams of contention, there’s still plenty of angst for both fanbases. The Raptors are coming off a frustrating loss to the Jazz where Pascal Siakam played poorly. There’s a shot at redemption here, though, as Siakam will once again be a focal point. OG Anunoby is out with a hip injury and Siakam will likely draw a matchup against Harrison Barnes, who’s averaged 20.4 points and 7.9 rebounds over his last ten games.
The Kings are favoured on the line, but Toronto has to feel good about this chance to right the ship. Here are the game details, then let’s look at the keys to the game.
Where to Watch
Sportsnet, 10 PM ET
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch
Sacramento — De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Chimezie Metu, Harrison Barnes, Richaun Holmes
Toronto — OG Anunoby (hip - OUT), Precious Achiuwa (shoulder - OUT), Yuta Watanabe (calf - OUT)
Sacramento — none
Put Up Points
After a loss where none of their starters played over 31 minutes, the Raptors need to fire their jets early and often in this matchup with the Kings. Sacramento is giving up 109.1 points per game over the last ten and their starting backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton aren’t really known for their defensive chops.
While Siakam is going to draw eyeballs, this really needs to be a good Fred VanVleet game (and, possibly, Malachi Flynn pouring some points in again off the bench). If those two guards can push transition, make some shots, and play solid defence — the Raptors have a very good chance at playing this game at their own pace.
Protect The Line
In the Raptors’ heyday, their defensive scheme seemed hardwired to allow open shots to non-shooters. This year, not much has changed — the Raptors are giving up 11.3 corner threes per game, second in the NBA to the Miami Heat, and only allowing a percentage of 37.2 on those shots.
Enter Buddy Hield. While he’s not a “corner” guy — he tends to splash them from all over — Hield needs to be accounted for off the bench. Shooting 40.4% from three on 10.7 attempts per game is no joke. If the Raptors can even force him to give it up, drop those attempts to 6-7, that margin can be enough in the end by itself to get the win.
There’s no hiding that Pascal Siakam is still trying to find his place this season, joining the team late after shoulder surgery held him out. Thursday’s loss to Utah, where he shot 2-for-14 and turned the ball over four times, may have been the low point so far — but there’s upside to be found.
Siakam’s passing is markedly better to start this year, and appears to be building frontcourt chemistry with Scottie Barnes. Siakam had five assists through the misery against Utah and will be leaned on again to create in tight spaces. Sacramento boasts an athletic frontcourt with Barnes, Richaun Holmes, and Chimezie Metu, but not one that is superior at stopping teams. The goal for Siakam needs to be to find the gaps, get it to cutters, and not obsess over shooting himself into rhythm. That will come with time.