After a convincing home win against the New Orleans Pelicans Friday night, the Toronto Raptors will kick off their road trip against DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings. Both teams are riding a two game winning streak entering tonight’s matchup. The Kings started the year looking just as dysfunctional as ever but have since found their stride since the return of All-Star Boogie Cousins. The Raptors will hope they can get a complete team effort, as the starters have been carrying the scoring load for much of the early season. The Kings are a team that are more than capable of putting points on the board, averaging 103.5 points per game as a team – which is good for 5th in the NBA. On the other side of things, they haven’t been capable of stopping the ball either; allowing teams to average 108.6 ppg against them (28th in the NBA).
The last time these two teams met, the Raptors were able to keep Cousins in check. This time around the Kings have a new floor general in Rajon Rondo who has been looking more and more like his old triple-double Celtic self. Rondo has had 3 triple-doubles in his last four games after only recording 4 triple-doubles all of last season between the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics. The Kings are a potent offensive squad, so the Raptors will have to dig in and let their defence dictate the outcome of this game.
Cage’s Keys to the Game:
No Boogie Down in Sac-Town
The Kings have reeled off two consecutive wins since Cousins returned to action. In the Kings’ last two victories DeMarcus Cousins has been averaged 36.5 PPG & 11 REB. Safe to say he’s the key to the rise and fall of their team. Keep DeMarcus in check and the Raptors have a significantly higher chance of coming away with a victory.
Play your style
As mentioned before, the Kings are team that can put points on the board. With coach George Karl, the Kings have adopted an up-tempo style of play that doesn’t exactly fit into the Raptors plans. The Kings are not only one of the best scoring teams in the league, but also one of the best passing teams in the NBA – currently sitting 5th in assists. The Raptors will need to contain the Kings transition game as they have some young athletic talent in their backcourt that can get up and down. Sacramento is a team that likes to get quick scores, and will elect to shoot earlier in the shot clock to keep the tempo of the game up. If the Raptors are able to make them grind every possession they’ll be able to limit their offensive effectiveness and hopefully keep their scoring below their seasonal average.
Continue Dominance on the Glass
The Raptors are one of the best rebounding teams the league – which is absurd. The Raps are currently 4th in the league with Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo leading the way. When healthy, the Kings can hit the glass with the best of them with Cousins, Rondo (2nd on the Kings in REB) and Kosta Koufos crashing the boards. Former Raptors’ player Rudy Gay will also return to the line-up after missing Friday’s contest with an illness. The Raptors will need everyone to hit the glass and limit the Kings’ second chance opportunities.
X-Factor: DeMar DeRozan
Tonight’s X-Factor goes to swingman DeMar DeRozan who had an off game of sorts against the Pelicans in his last game. DeRozan will have the most favourable matchup against the likes of Ben McLemore and Marco Belinelli. Look for DeRozan to be aggressive early on by attacking the rim and getting to the line. Once he gets going from the charity stripe, everything else seems to fall in place for the Raptors.