The Toronto Raptors remain undefeated in Vancouver in the preseason, using their defence to make the Sacramento Kings call it a night early, running away with a 112-99 win before the deep end of the bench made the score what it is.
The much-hyped “0.5 offence” understandably needed more reps, as the starters looked like a fish out of the water offensively in the first half. On the other hand, the defence didn’t need that long to gel, and their patented length and activity defensively erased a slow start and an early eight-point Kings lead as they turned it around in the second quarter and never looked back.
Darko Rajakovic explains the “0.5 offence” he wants to implement with the Toronto Raptors this season. pic.twitter.com/vURrOf0XRF— عمر عثمان Mike Tyson’s Translator (@OmerOsman200) October 9, 2023
Toronto had several players on the shelf, starting with recent injuries in Precious Achiuwa (groin), Ron Harper Jr. (shoulder), Christian Koloko (respiratory), and the injury rehab for Otto Porter Jr. and Jeff Dowtin Jr.
The biggest takeaway for this game is that it looks like Dennis Schroder will be a starter until something drastic happens or the starting unit needs better spacing than he can provide. Gary Trent Jr. was the sixth man for this game, and the bench included Chris Boucher, Jaden McDaniels, Malachi Flynn, and Thaddeus Young.
Gary Trent Jr. led all scorers with 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting. Scottie Barnes led the starters with 15 points, seven boards, and four dimes in 18 minutes, while OG Anunoby added 14 points and Pascal Siakam eight points in 20 minutes. It took a while for new Raptor Dennis Schroder to get going, as he finished with six points, five dimes, but was in foul trouble for the most part, committing five fouls in 17 minutes.
The Kings only tried for half of the game, electing to sit their starters in the second half. Keegan Murray looked impressive in 16 minutes, putting up 11 points, making several standout plays offensively.
Keegan Murray preseason slam pic.twitter.com/1GtLNcSBI6— Cameron Salerno (@cameronsalerno1) October 9, 2023
The Raptors’ offence started how a team would look when implementing a new offence: Not fluid, out of rhythm, and clearly needing more time to gel. The subpar offensive possessions to start the game allowed the Kings to race to an early 8-2 lead, partly thanks to the shooting fouls that the Raptors gifted them. Perhaps with jitters out of the way, the Raptors’ offence started to look a bit better, but the Kings’ offence was just in a different gear. Schroder picked up his third foul at the eight-minute mark, and it’s Gary Trent Jr. as the first rap off the bench.
With Schroder out, the team looked more cohesive on both ends of the floor, racing to a 9-2 run to cut the Kings’ lead to 18-20. New Raptor Jaden McDaniels made a great first impression, scoring five quick points. Unfortunately, McGee, yes, Javale McGee and Davion Mitchell fuelled their own 9-2 run to give the Kings a 35-27 lead. However, Trent Jr. helped the Raptors go on an 8-0 run to close the quarter to tie the game at 35.
GTJ + Starters to start the quarter, which I don’t blame coach Darko as he’s on fire, scoring off a layup this time. OG’s drive to the basket gave the Raptors their first lead, and their length finally started to bother the Kings. An errant transition pass by Barnes put Schroder in a spot, forcing him to commit his fourth foul, but he remained on the floor. Schroder leaned forward with his controller and gave the Raptors a seven-point lead midway through the second frame, but the Kings’ starters cut the lead to one.
OG and Pascal got the Raptors some breathing room, connecting on an alley-oop. Despite the offensive stagnation in the halfcourt, the Raptors’ defence generated offence for them, from OG and Pascal’s oop to Barnes pushing the ball in transition, and with a nifty BLOB play, Trent Jr.’s middy gave the Raptors a 69-55 lead at the half.
The second half started with the Kings calling it a night for their starters, which should have been easy work for the Raptors’ starters, as they put a lid on the Kings’ basket, going on a 12-2 run until coach Darko called it a night for his starters five minutes into the second half. Coach Darko went with a Flynn-Trent Jr-McDaniels-Young-Boucher as the crowd chanted for Gradey Dick. After Trent Jr. botched a dunk, Gradey finally got in, getting that Bruno-esque fan treatment as he swished his first two shots (the first one didn’t count). Flynn turned the ball over to end the quarter with the Raptors in command, 95-74.
The fourth quarter saw both teams get deep into their roster, with the Raptors going with Flynn-Gradey-Garrett-Temple-Gueye-Boucher, which had an offence as one would imagine from that five-man unit. Flynn struggled to make this lineup look decent, and with eight minutes left, coach Darko went with the Temple+Raptors 905 lineup. The Kings’ 3rd/4th stringers outscored their counterparts 25-17 in the quarter, which didn’t really have anything good to watch except for a couple of plays by Mo Gueye and Gradey.
Up Next: The Raptors host Cairns Taipans of Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL) next Sunday for another preseason game.