Tonight didn’t end quite as magical either.
The Raptors welcomed a Sacramento Kings team that has been playing quite well this season after rebuilding their team over the past few years. Last season, they acquired Damontis Sabonis from the Indiana Pacers along with a few other key role players.
They came into this match with a 14-12 record while the Raptors were at 13-14 — sinking below the .500 mark after their second loss to Orlando.
With O.G. Anunoby still out with a hip injury, the Raptors opted to start Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes and Thaddeus Young. The length and veteran presence provided by Thad Young showed hope of slowing down the taller players on Sacramento’s side (ie Sabonis).
The Raptors started the game on the right path, with Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam scoring thirteen and seven points respectively right out of the gate. The good luck continued when Nick Nurse successfully challenged a play, turning it into an offensive foul for the team. If you’re new here — challenges don’t often end in Toronto’s favour.
The Raptors ended the first quarter up 31-23 and looking good on many fronts.
The second quarter showed more improvement in the beginning from a squad that seemed pretty defeated after their last game. Dalano Banton made an appearance about halfway through the quarter, scoring a quick four points in his signature elegant finishes at the basket.
Toronto was able to get up to a 16 point lead mid-way through the second quarter and hopes were high that the recent struggles would not come back to haunt the team tonight.
Spoiler Alert: the struggles came back to haunt the team tonight.
The Raptors just seemed more energetic in the first half than they did over the weekend. Nick Nurse mentioned before the game that he wanted the team to continue to be strong defensively, and he trusted that their offensive would soon follow.
Yet, they still let the Kings come back to end the half. Sacramento shot 32% from three as opposed to the Raptors 23.1%. This continues to be relevant again later...
The Raptors were able to keep their lead though, with a score of 62-59 at the half.
The second half started with quite the excitement as an on court scuffle caused the Sacramento Kings head coach to be ejected from the game...
As for the Raptors, they worked to gain on their lead — and it was Fred VanVleet that rose to the occasion. By the five minute mark in the third quarter, he had 28 points, five rebounds and two assists.
The Kings stayed strong though, their offence continued to get more and more creative. They also beat Toronto on the boards as well as from three — which we know has been a weak point from the Raptors in recent games.
This caused the Kings to come back slowly — and almost take the lead — but yet again it was Fred VanVleet who saved the Raptors. By the end of the third, Fred was up to 35 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Fred VanVleet (35) Scottie Barnes (20) and Pascal Siakam (17) are the only Raptors in double digit scoring right now...— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) December 15, 2022
maybe why the score is so close
The Raptors maintained their lead going into the fourth at 94-88.
It took four minutes for the Kings to pull ahead.
In the last five minutes the game, the Kings took over the lead, kept it at about five points, slipped to a three-point lead, and narrowly avoided overtime. With seconds to go, Fred VanVleet missed his three-point opportunity to take it to OT — and despite Pascal Siakam making a quick lay up — it wasn’t enough.
The Raptors LOSE by ONE POINT — 124-123. They fall to 13-15 on the season.
Confusing? I mean, if you popped in here to read this fun recap, skipped the spoiler alerts and even the title, and just looked at the Raptor’s steady lead through three quarters — sure, confusion is acceptable.
Until you look at the three point differential. The Kings made 17 three pointers all game. They TOOK 46 three point shot attempts.
The Raptors? They made six of their 21 three point attempts. Many of the Kings’ three pointers went completely uncontested — a fact that Fred VanVleet was quick to admit in his post-game presser.
Another thing mentioned by Fred — there WERE some positives to this game. Yet, when you fail to come out of the game with the win, those positives seem... less positive.
You can take solace in the fact Scottie Barnes and Fred VanVleet were amazing tonight. Major bounce back games.— Esfandiar Baraheni (@JustEsBaraheni) December 15, 2022
Tough loss, but trending in the right direction is a good thing
Yet, in the spirit of optimism, let’s mention two positives in particular.
Fred VanVleet for one, who has been struggling as of late, had a MONSTER night. He ended the night with 39 points, five assists and eight rebounds. He made some impossible shots. His three point shooting — 2/7 tonight — may not be 100% back, but you CANNOT complain about a 39 point performance.
Scottie Barnes also had a promising night. He ended with 27 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Incredibly frustrating to have two performances like this and not come away with the game.
Scottie Barnes tonight:— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) December 15, 2022
10 assists (tied career-high)
Barnes scored or assisted on 48 of the Raptors’ 123 points tonight.
ALLLLLL of these highs and lows aside, I am personally hesitant to pull the PANIC button. The SLIGHTLY WORRIED button? Sure. The MAYBE WE SHOULD DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS COUGH MASAI COUGH button? I’m inching for it. Panic? Not yet.
For tonight though, unfortunately “better” wasn’t good enough. The Raptors fall to 13-15 on the season, and will welcome the Brooklyn Nets to Scotiabank Arena on Friday.