Sacramento defeated the Raptors 105-96 tonight for just their third road game this season but also their second in a row. It was again another performance indicative of just how important DeMarcus Cousins is to this team.
Ever since coming back from his "indefinite" suspension, Cousins appears to be a changed man. Gone is the surliness. Gone is the drama. But most importantly, Cousins is playing great basketball. Tonight he added to what has already been a great week with a 31 point, 20 rebound, 4 assists and 2 steal effort in just 33 minutes. He was the best player on the floor and Toronto had no answer for him no matter who they threw at him. Aaron Gray was too slow. Ed Davis too small. Amir Johnson too rough (fouled out in 9 minutes trying to guard DMC). Quincy Acy too inexperienced.
Cousins is not only playing better basketball, he's playing smarter and more unselfishly. He's sharing the ball regularly instead of throwing the offense out of whack with bad, forced shots. He's settling for jumpers less. He's playing with a lot more energy on the defensive end. As a result, the Kings are winning more games, the team is more fun to watch, and the future looks just a little bit brighter.
While Cousins deserves a lot of credit for tonight's victory, there were a few other standouts as well. Jason Thompson continues to be as efficient as ever, scoring 14 points on 7-11 from the field. John Salmons played some very good defense on Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan throughout and also caught fire in the second half to finish with 20 points on 7-14 from the field to go with 4 assists. Francisco Garcia couldn't buy a bucket tonight (just 1-7) but he was more than making up for it with his defensive effort, contesting shots (3 blocks), picking pockets (2 steals) and just being a pest in general.
The Kings started out strong thanks to Cousins but the Raptors were able to fight back and keep it close. Things started to look a little dire for Sacramento in the second quarter when Toronto's bench, primarily Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields and Alan Anderson, lit up the Kings. Meanwhile Sacramento's bench could not get anything going offensively, probably because it consisted of a lineup of Chuck Hayes, Thomas Robinson, James Johnson, Jimmer Fredette and Aaron Brooks, also known as a lineup I never want to see in any game ever again. With that lineup on the floor, the Raptors built up a quick 8 point lead before Cousins and the rest of the starters were called back into action. Remarkably, all the damage was negated by the end of the half and Sacramento ended being up 54-53 at the half after finishing on a 8-0 run.
The game really broke out for Sacramento in the third quarter though. The Kings kept their momentum going and within a few minutes the 8-0 run had become a 20-0 run. The Kings were playing some tough defense and Toronto was also missing some open shots. By the time the halfway mark of the third quarter hit, the Raptors had scored just 4 points, and would not score again until the 2:29 mark with Sacramento having extended the lead to 17. By the end of the third quarter, Sacramento had outscored Toronto 28-10 and led 82-63.
The game wasn't over yet though and Kyle Lowry had something to say about it. Lowry immediately went to work trying to bring the Raptors back in the game and he did a pretty admirable job, only to find himself stymied when the Kings wouldn't miss on the other end. John Salmons in particular caught fire in this quarter. Still, the Raptors kept at it and started to see dividends once the Kings had emptied their bench. A couple three pointers by Jose Calderon and Alan Anderson cut it to just 13 with 5:52 left, and Salmons found his rest cut short. The Kings pushed the lead back to 18 at the 2:33 mark before essentially calling it a night and subbing in the rest of the bench. Toronto finished on a 9-0 run that made the game appear a lot closer than it was.
James Johnson came into Toronto for the first time since being traded by the Raptors and I think he was trying much too hard and going away from the things that have been working for him these past few weeks. At the half he had the second more field goal attempts on the team next to Cousins.
Aaron Brooks and Jimmer Fredette didn't work well against Toronto's bench guards. Lowry isn't huge but he's very quick and strong, and Toronto's SGs took advantage of Jimmer in the post.
Thomas Robinson had a decent game in 23 minutes, with 5 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. He worked much better when paired with Cousins or Thompson and not Chuck Hayes. The Kings need to figure out a way to keep at least one of Cousins or Thompson on the court at all times because Hayes and Robinson together is not a good fit.
Ball movement continues to be much better than what we saw early in the season. It's a team effort too, not just one player. Isaiah led the Kings with 6 assists to 1 turnover, but four other Kings had multiple assists, and only Jimmer and James had more turnovers than assists.
The Kings can now head to Brooklyn with good spirits and look to finish off this already successful (in my opinion) road trip on an even higher note.
- There was a guy at the game mentioned on the telecast who flew from England to Toronto to watch the Kings play. How fun that he got to witness this fun game in person.
- DeMarcus got called for a technical foul in the first half that was part of a double technical with Alan Anderson that was one of the worst technicals I've ever seen. Anderson was yapping at Cuz and Cuz walked away without saying anything but still got T'd up. If that tech is not rescinded by the league I'll be very, very surprised.
- Officiating was pretty bad for both teams tonight, so at least they were consistent.
- Those "Toronto" signs on the baseline throw me off.
- Grant is right, the Raptors DO play too much music throughout the game.
- Just dunk everything T-Rob. Dunk everything. Don't worry about trying to do anything else.
- Nostradumbasses of the Night were theboypinoy, the WWB, soysauce, Jlv2012, and Deleran with 4 points each.