Its becoming more and more apparent just what DeMarcus Cousins means to the Sacramento Kings. Not only is he the locus of the entire Kings' offense, his defensive presence and rebounding ability has been a critical component of the Kings' ability to beat good teams early in the season. In what has become a recurring theme, the Kings' offense without Cousins was good enough to get a win, but the defense let the team down, digging a big enough hole and losing the battle of the boards to lose to the Toronto Raptors 117-109.
The starters, in an interesting twist, were for the most part thoroughly outplayed by the Raptors. Behind hot shooting from beyond the arc, the Raptors were able to consistently push the lead against the Kings' starting five. Rudy Gay and Ben McLemore led the Kings offensively, combining for 41 points between the two of them. Gay also added a career-high 10 assists. But the Kings could not stop the Raptors on the other end. Terrance Ross was unstoppable early, scoring the majority of his 20 points in the first quarter. Kyle Lowry had his way with whatever defender the Kings threw at him, scoring 27 points, dishing out 13 assists, and hitting coldblooded shots down the stretch. Unable to stop the Raptors one one end, the Kings could not keep pace on the other. This was mainly because Darren Collison had a rough outing, scoring only 4 points on 0/5 shooting from the field. The Raptors starters were able to push the lead to 15 in the first half and 12 in the second against the Kings' starters.
The bench, however, came through just when the Kings needed them most. Ramon Sessions had his first good outing of the year, scoring 15 points on 5/11 from the field. Sessions, unfortunately, faded down the stretch, missing critical shots and failing to keep Lowry in front of him and allowing the Kings defense to collapse. Derrick Williams came off the bench and also had the best outing he's had in a long time, scoring 18 points on 8/12 shooting in 14 explosive minutes. Williams was the main reason the Kings were in the game down the stretch, attacking the glass with his elite athleticism and consistently getting to the rim off of good Kings ball movement.
Ultimately, this game was decided on the defensive end. The Kings shot 52% from the field, had 28 assists and only 15 turnovers. Unfortunately, they allowed the Raptors to shoot 50% from the field, including allowing 10 three pointers at 44% from distance, seven threes more than the Kings made. Normally the Kings can mitigate the three point shooting disparity by attacking the glass, but the Raptors outrebounded the Kings on the game, including nabbing several critical caroms down the stretch as the team was making one last gasp to win the game.
The Kings are now losers of four straight and fall to .500 for the first time since their epic 5-1 start. Without Cousins, the team has now fallen in three straight games to upper-echelon teams. But good news is on the way as the schedule gets considerably easier now, as well as getting a rested-up Cousins back. Next up on the Kings' slate is the Paul George-less Pacers on Friday.
For the opponent's perspective, visit Raptors HQ