The Toronto Raptors are banged up, but they are inching close to .500 and the play-in action. They host the Sacramento Kings tonight, who may have found something since replacing their former head coach Luke Walton.
The Kings are 5-5 since Walton was dismissed, and they were on a rare three-game winning streak before their big man Richaun Holmes went out with an eye injury. Holmes will be out for tonight’s game, but the Kings have a thousand bigs on their stable, including Raptor legend Alex Len.
The Raptors will be without Precious Achiuwa tonight, but this time, because of Health and Safety protocols. Per reports, he hasn’t tested positive. Still, because of the City of Toronto’s Covid protocols, he needs to isolate himself due to close contact with a positive case.
Without Achiuwa, the Raptors will be rolling the dice again with Chris Boucher and a centre-by committee throughout the game. Against the Knicks, Obi Toppin looked like peak Amare Stoudamire, so who knows if we’ll see Marvin Bagley play like peak Chris Bosh.
The Raptors survived a thriller against the reeling New York Knicks on Friday. Gary Trent Jr led the team with 24 points, coming up clutch late. It was a rare win for the Raptors where both Pascal Siakam (3/18) and Fred VanVleet (4/13) struggled offensively. Man, the Knicks are bad.
Kings guard De’Aaron Fox was a problem for the Raptors when they visited the Golden 1 Center. Still, Siakam was unstoppable throughout the game, leading to a comfortable 108-89 win. Do we get to see a repeat performance from Siakam? Peep the details below on how to catch the game:
Where to Watch:
TSN, 7:00 PM ET
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher
Sacramento Kings – Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley, Alex Len, Tyrese Haliburton, De-Aaron Fox
Toronto – OG Anunoby (hip – out), Khem Birch (knee – out), Precious Achiuwa (Health & Safety – out), David Johnson (calf – out), Goran Dragic (personal – out)
Sacramento Kings – Richaun Holmes (eye – out)
Home Cooking Defense
These past few games, the Raptors’ home cooking has been on point, winning three of their last four home games. Their defense plays a big part in their wins, as they’ve only allowed an average of 97.7 points per game during this homestand. It hasn’t been an entire game’s effort, but the “down times” are less frequent now than previously. Also, when their defense is “on,” it can be realllly difficult for the opposing teams. Just ask the Knicks. The rediscovered staunch defense has vaulted the team back to the middle of the pack of DEF RTG.
VanVleet’s Gatorade Icon
Fred VanVleet is technically shooting better this season at 43%, but as the lead ball-handler, the defense is keying on him more and more. Teams are starting to pressure VanVleet more, getting the ball out of his hands, and often, playing him for the shot. His efficiency is down these past four games, shooting 37.1% from the field and relatively held to shooting mostly perimeter shots.
The lack of a good centre is definitely a factor, and the bench has not done their part to make things easy for VanVleet. Perhaps fatigue from the heavy workload may be starting to rear its ugly head.
NBA’s COVID Problem
The NBA has a COVID outbreak that they are trying to ignore. The Chicago Bulls are running out of former Raptors to play for them, as they have nine players placed on protocols since their first case. There are several teams affected right now, including the Raptors. President Masai Ujiri had a breakthrough case, and we have Precious Achiuwa and Superfan Nav Bhatia on isolation right now.
The Knicks had two players enter health and safety protocols after playing the Raptors recently. Yet, the league seems to be unperturbed and wants to keep the schedule uninterrupted as much as possible. Perhaps it’s time for the NBA to revisit their approach with the new variant (Omicron) and the rising cases (including breakthrough).
PSA: if you attended the Washington Wizards game at Scotiabank Arena on Dec 5th, please self-monitor for signs of COVID and get tested if you develop symptoms.