The Toronto Raptors kick off a seven game West-cost road trip tonight. A game which heading into the season, the majority of people would have expected the Raptors to be favoured.
After the last few years, it feels weird to preview this game by asking if the 21-27 Toronto Raptors can upset the 27-19 Sacramento Kings, but that is where we are at.
Where to watch:
TSN, 8:00 PM ET
Toronto Raptors — Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa
Sacramento Kings — De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray, Domantas Sabonis
Toronto Raptors — OG Anunoby (Questionable - Ankle), Dalano Banton (Questionable - Hip), Otto Porter Jr. (Out - Foot)
Sacramento Kings — Chimezie Metu (Questionable - Knee)
It’s crazy to think that the Toronto Raptors could be heading out west with a different group of guys than they could return home with. With the trade deadline on February 9, and the final game of this road-swing on February 5, the likelihood of someone getting traded gets greater by the day.
As much as I have been a pessimist on the season, and I feel like I’ve been right in doing so, I think there is something to be said about enjoying the moment. The core of this team gave us an extremely fun year last year, and some sparse fun memories this season.
The fact that one or multiple could get traded is a weird feeling, but also understandably what needs to happen to in order to grow this team to where Masai Ujiri wants: To win again in Toronto.
So let’s tune in and join this Raptors team in getting demolished by another big man. At least with Domantas Sabonis, it isn’t just a Raptors thing to not be able to guard him, it is very much league wide.
Sabonis has two all star nods to his name, and will likely receive a third this season. In fact, there is a chance that he earns the title of all star starter for this first time in his still relatively young career.
When the Kings midway through last season traded rising star, Tyrese Haliburton for the Lithuanian big man, the fans were furious. It seemed they had finally struck gold in a draft pick, (and based on the results this season, they absolutely had) and they were trading him away in an attempt to fight for the play-in.
As much as that attempt failed last season, it has more than succeeded this season. Sabonis is having the best year of his career, and is leading the charge to end the Kings’ 16 year playoff drought.
Can we take in how long 16 seasons is? The last time the Sacramento Kings made the playoffs, the Toronto Raptors were lead by two guys who averaged over 20 points per game, Chris Bosh and Mike James. In the last 16 seasons, the Toronto Raptors as a franchise have made the playoffs 10 times, including one championship in 2019.
I’m a Raptors fan at heart, but watching this Kings team win as regularly as they’ve been winning is honestly such a joy.
Obviously tonight it’s “Go Raptors” all the way, but as I mentioned previously, they are going to have to stop the expected three-time all star if they want to start this west coast trip off with a bang!
Last time these two teams met, Sabonis absolutely had his way finishing with 21 points, 20 rebounds and 7 assists, leading his team to a one point victory.
Not that I would expect another 20 and 20 game, because those games are a rarity in themselves, but if the Raptors don’t clamp down, a similar performance could be upon us.
Toronto has had enough trouble this season protecting the rim against anyone, but when it comes to bigs, they severely struggle. Sometimes it looks as if they’re playing in a different age group.
The great thing about this Sacramento team is that they have surrounded Sabonis with shooters, and a guard in De’Aaron Fox who can blow past anyone off the dribble, another weakness of this Toronto defense.
The two top players on Sacramento have been causing problems for everyone this year, but the fact that they fully combat the weakness’ of this Raptors’ defense deems to be a problem. A quick guard and a dominant big is the bane to the Raptors existence.
Offense hasn’t seemed to be a problem lately. They have worked through whatever kinks they have needed to, and they are getting production from almost everyone on the offensive end. The Raptors have scored 120 or more points in four of their last five games. For some context, they average 112.6 points per game on the season, which ranks them 23 out of 30 teams.
The last time these two teams played, the final score was 124-123 in favour of the Kings. If the Raptors want to split the season series, they are going to have to recognize their defensive weakness’ and game plan against them, but also show more life on that end.