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Kings vs. Raptors Preview: Familiar Faces

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Both teams have improved since the trade, but who's improved more?

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento hosts the Toronto Raptors tonight (7:00 pm on Comcast SportsNet California and KHTK 1140) as they welcome back Greivis Vasquez, Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson and John Salmons.  Both teams have benefited from the Rudy Gay trade, with Rudy thriving in Sacramento and the Raptors becoming the East's de facto 3rd best team.

MATCHUP OF THE GAME

Isaiah Thomas vs. Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry probably deserved to be on the All-Star team this year (even over his teammate DeMar DeRozan) thanks to the wonderful job he's done this year with this Raptors squad, particularly since the Rudy trade.  Lowry is averaging 16.5 points, 7.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals to go along with physical defense and he will be a tough matchup for Isaiah on both ends of the floor.  Isaiah performed efficiently last game, but he was going up against the zombie formerly known as Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin.

3 THINGS

1. We know how much Rudy Gay has brought to the Kings, but what has his absence done for Toronto?  For one, it's freed up a lot of opportunity for other guys on the team, particularly Lowry, DeRozan and Terrence Ross.  Lowry's having an All-Star caliber year, DeRozan IS an All-Star, and Ross is having a good sophomore campaign that saw him drop 51 points just a few weeks ago, tying the Raptors franchise record.  It's also helped that the Raptors now have a quality bench, almost solely comprised of the guys we sent them; Patrick Patterson and John Salmons have rediscovered their shooting strokes as they're both over 44% from three with Toronto, Greivis Vasquez is a more than capable backup and Chuck Hayes is a solid defensive big.

2. Toronto's biggest strength this year has surprisingly been in their defense, which is 7th in the league.  Their offense isn't terrible either, at 14th.  The Kings will need to play with the same defensive intensity they did on Monday against the Bulls, but Toronto won't be missing nearly as many open shots as Chicago was.

3. Despite Toronto's good defense, they still don't really have an answer for DeMarcus Cousins.  In both games last year against the Raptors, Cousins shot a combined 22 of 36 from the floor and Sacramento won both games.  If Cousins has a good game, the Kings have a good chance of winning.

PRE-GAME HAIKU

Did you miss Johnny?
Did you miss the dribbling,
or all the missed shots?

PREDICTION

Raptors 119, Kings 118 as John Salmons caps off an 82 point performance with a game-winning 3 at the buzzer.