The West Coast road trip tipped off as the Toronto Raptors visited Sacramento tonight to play the Kings. We know that a 10pm start time is painful for some, so we have a full run down on all the action from the game. Spoiler alert, it was a GOOD TIME.
The vibes were certainly interesting as the Raptors left Toronto this week. Rumours have been swirling around moves to be made before the NBA Trade Deadline that looms just two weeks away. Yet, no actual moves have been made yet, so the Raptors are going to have to just put their heads down and try to win games for now.
Good news for fans tonight was that O.G. Anunoby was healthy enough to play after an ankle injury scare over the weekend. Fred VanVleet, who has been struggling with back soreness, also was able to start.
Obviously joined by a sharp shooting Gary Trent Jr, and Scottie Barnes — whose January has been the best month for him so far this season. Of course, hopes were high that the Raptors All-Star hopeful Pascal Siakam would lead the team to victory, and that he did.
They faced a Sacramento Kings team that is THIRD in the Western Conference. Yeah, you read that right. They’ve been tearing up this season (#LightTheBeam) but that didn’t stop the Raptors for giving them a run for their money.
The key to beating the team with the third highest field goal percentage in the NBA? Defence. Touchy subject these days for a team that used to be feared for their suffocating defensive schemes.
Yet, the Raptors started off hot with great defence, which helped them contain the Kings’ sharp shooting from the jump. Gary Trent Jr scored the first five for the Raptors, and it rolled on from there!
For the first time in a while, The Raptors really seemed cohesive, and that payed off. They played their best first half in a looooong time, holding the Sacramento Kings to 50 points and being ahead by eight with 58.
The third quarter was more of that good good basketball. The Raptors defence seemed completely locked in, there was a ton of movement, and it paid off. It seemed like the team we thought we were getting finally arrived, at a very inconvenient time (see: trade deadline).
The Raptors went on a 22-6 run late in the third — TWENTY-TWO to SIX. Absolutely denying one of the best offensive teams currently in the NBA. They got to sit Pascal for a stretch heading into the fourth, which is a rare occasion for the Raptors leading scorer.
One of the main keys to this game was suffocating Sabonis. They made nothing easy for him and it worked. Mix in the fact that shots were going in for Toronto tonight, and it just seemed like they executed the game plan to perfection. Nick Nurse is sure to be happy with that performance.
The Raptors end up starting their West Coast Road trip with a win, causing Sacramento to score their lowest score of the season. They win 113-95.
Here are some things that really worked for the Raptors this game:
The Raptors defence was phenomenal tonight. For a team that has prided themselves on their defence, it’s been a rough season for them. Tonight showed what they are capable of.
The Raptors held the Kings to under 100 points total for the first time since December, and forced them to turn the basketball over 19 times.
They broke Damontis Sabonis’ double double record, holding him to nine points and eight assists on the night. He was visibly frustrated with the way the Raptors were not letting him do his thing at the rim.
After being out for an extended period of time rehabbing an ankle injury, Precious Achiuwa has slowly been regaining his strength on the court.
Tonight was a good indication he is feeling much better. He scored 19 points, five rebounds and one assist — but his impact went much further than that.
The bench unit of him, Boucher, and Hernangomez not only sustained the score while Pascal and the other starters rested, they thrived. Boucher ended the night with 16 of his own points. Coach Nurse kept the rotation tight and it seemed to work out.
He scored 26 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. He controlled the offence, the pace of the game, and was a huge factor in shutting down Sabonis.
Siakam is Toronto’s “it” factor. Obviously, none of the wild trade rumours flying around have had anything to do with him. Everyone knows he’s not up for trade. The Raptors would ahve no chance of crawling back into playoff contention without him.
One thing we do know is that he deserves to be at the All-Star game next month.
Undeniably this was one of the best Raptors games of the entire season. They were dominant and connected from start to finish, and they’ll need to keep that energy up going into their next match against the Golden State Warriors.
A rivalry that has popped up in recent years (erm, 2019 anyone?) a Warriors match up is just what the Raptors need to continue to gain confidence.
Catch that game Friday at 10:00p.m. EST on TSN and NBA TV.