The Sacramento Kings regained their mojo in a win over the Chicago Bulls Wednesday as they rediscovered their pace on both ends of the floor. Much of that was fueled by the return of Tyrese Haliburton, who had to take on an unexpected load in his first game back after De’Aaron Fox exited the game in the first quarter.
The Kings will look to continue that positive momentum against an opponent that has really struggled to start the season. The Raptors have had a challenging schedule (sixth hardest in the NBA, per ESPN), but they’ve also only managed one win despite being in multiple clutch situations thus far.
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California
When: Friday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. PT
How to watch/listen: NBC Sports California, KHTK Sports 1140 AM
Opposing perspective: Raptors HQ
Projected Starting Lineups:
Kings (4-4): De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley III, Richaun Holmes
Raptors (1-6): Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Aron Baynes
Kings: De’Aaron Fox (hamstring), Richaun Holmes (ankle) — QUESTIONABLE; DaQuan Jeffries (ankle), Jabari Parker (health and safety protocols) — OUT
Raptors: Patrick McCaw (thumb) — OUT
This will be an interesting test for the Sacramento defense, which has struggled thus far in the half court, because the Raptors have a hellaciously bad halfcourt offense as well. Toronto struggles to generate anything in the paint and thus settles for a high volume of threes on offense; the Kings, wouldn’t you know, give up a ton of threes in the half court. The Raptors don’t make many of their 3-pointers, but the volume could be enough to tilt this game in their direction.
Toronto has been much better on the fast break, so taking care of the ball and getting matched up in transition will be crucial. The Kings have been good at avoiding turnovers thus far, though that could prove more challenging if Fox isn’t available. The Raptors are willing to pick up ball handlers full court, and beyond Fox, the Kings don’t exactly have any guards who can handle that type of pressure.
Where Sacramento has an advantage against the Raptors is in the paint. The Kings have been excellent at drawing fouls this season, and the Toronto centers — specifically Chris Boucher — have had difficulty defending without fouling. This might be an opportunity for the Raptors to dust off Alex Len and see if the former King can protect the paint more effectively against a team that likes to attack the basket. Second chances could also be critical, as the Raptors don’t box out particularly, and the Kings gobble up offensive rebounds. Marvin Bagley and Richaun Holmes (if he plays) should have plenty of opportunities to crash the glass against Toronto.
This is the second game of a seven-game homestand for the Kings, and even in a fan-less environment, that continuity alone should be beneficial for Sacramento. Being able to stay in their homes and actually practice instead of traveling has to help this team grow together. And if the Kings want to be taken seriously around the league, this is the type of game — against a struggling team in the midst of a road swing — that they have to win.