Here we go again. The Sacramento Kings find themselves in Toronto tonight to play the Raptors just 24 hours after a brutal 123-94 loss to the Nets in Brooklyn. Another tough back-to-back for the good guys.
Who, What, Where, When
Who: Sacramento Kings vs. Toronto Raptors
Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Canada
When: 4PM PT / 7PM ET
Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM
Finding A Spark
Am I alone in feeling like the Kings need something if they’re going to stay in this playoff conversation much longer? That could as dramatic as a trade or as simple as a lineup change, but it sure feels like the NBA has figured out this version of the Sacramento Kings.
Nemanja Bjelica and Willie Cauley-Stein don’t provide enough paint resistance on a night-to-night basis and it’s starting to get exposed in a major way. Iman Shumpert’s effectiveness has fallen off a cliff over the last 10 games. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, and Marvin Bagley continue to play well off the bench, and it certainly feels like there is an adjustment or two to be made here in the spirit of balancing out who is and isn’t performing to the best of their abilities right now.
The other problem is that even if the Kings make that change before tipoff tonight, they’re playing the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors in Toronto on the second night of a back-to-back. This one is going to be tough no matter what you do.
Regardless, this is a pivotal point in the 2018-19 NBA season. Every fringe playoff team is trying to determine if they’ll be buyers or sellers at the deadline. Are they going for the #8 seed or the #1 pick?
The Kings, of course, don’t have their 2019 NBA Draft pick and have no incentive to tank, but they still have to decide how they are going to approach the trade deadline, and that will likely be determined by how they play over the next two+ weeks.
Oh right, this was supposed to be a game preview.
De’Aaron Fox has-been-and-currently-is banged up with some issues we know about and some we likely don’t. The Kings looked tired last night in Brooklyn. The road trip + the Kings insane pace + the high usage of young players that aren’t used to an 82 game grind + older players that probably aren’t used to playing at this pace are all contributing factors.
NBC Sports Bay Area’s James Ham dropped this nugget after Monday’s loss in Brooklyn.
Some thoughts on De'Aaron Fox. He looks tired and a little beat up. He's logged a lot of minutes this season and he's being asked to push the pace. Last season he played a total of 2026 min over 73 games. This year, he's already at 1482 through 47 games.— James Ham (@James_HamNBCS) January 21, 2019
More on Fox: Joerger has tried to limit his minutes, which hasn't always worked out, but he's doing what's best for a young player. I wouldn't be shocked to Fox sit in an upcoming game to recharge. Long term health is worth more than a single win or loss.— James Ham (@James_HamNBCS) January 21, 2019
It’s worth noting that Iman Shumpert has been sitting out a lot of SEGABABA’s this season, and while nothing has been reported yet, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few Kings sit this one out. We’ll see. The Kings don’t play again until Friday in Memphis. I’m not advocating for this strategy, but I get it, and it’s something the Kings have done at times this season.
The Raptors Are A Problem
Look, the Toronto Raptors are a great basketball team. I probably don’t need to tell that to anybody reading this. The Kings have no answer for a player like Kawhi Leonard. He is the prototype for the kind of big wings the Kings struggle with.
The Raptors will be without OG Anunoby and Jonas Valanciunas tonight, which gives the Kings one less big wing and one less big big to worry about, but the entire Raptors starting lineup is healthy, rested, and ready to go. This is going to be a tough night for the Kings, but this team has found a way to surprise me every time I count them out, so who knows? Anything is possible.
#Lensface ep.78. Damn Diaspids • Raptors 114, Kings 105
Raptors 114, Kings 98
PS. I answered some Kings-related questions for the game preview over at Raptors Republic. If you’re interested in reading that and their thoughts on the game tonight, you can find it here.