Culture of Hoops

Sacramento Kings go north of the border, but their game goes south

Image courtesy of RMTip21 | Flickr

Image courtesy of RMTip21 | Flickr

The team Rudy Gay was exiled from in December looked different upon his return to Toronto Friday. When he was traded, the Toronto Raptors had a sub-.500 record, but now they’re the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

In their second of a seven-game road trip, Gay and the Sacramento Kings (20-40) were outplayed by the new-look Raptors (34-26), who were in control for most of the game and captured a 99-87 win.

In the first half, the chorus of boos by Toronto fans – jeering Gay for some misguided reason – was drown out by the sound of the officials’ whistles. The Raptors backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan routinely applied pressure on the Kings defense by attacking the basket, which Sacramento responded to by fouling. Lowry and DeRozan’s ability to get to the line provided Toronto with steadily reliable offensive options in an otherwise close first quarter or so.

The Raptors made their move in the second half, though, capitalizing off of turnovers by the Kings and getting into transition, where they scored 15 points. Toronto forced Sacramento to turn the ball over 17 times and scored 15 points off of the miscues.

The Kings carelessness with the basketball comes just a couple days removed from a game which they were lauded by their head coach for doing just the opposite.

Foul trouble early on played a role in the Kings losing ground as Friday’s game wore on. Cousins picked up a third foul in the second quarter, taking him out of the game for the rest of the half, during which time the Raptors went on a run.

Cousins ended up playing only 27 minutes, but was effective in that short time, scoring 24 points and pulling down seven rebounds. Toronto threw at least four different defenders at Cousins throughout the course of the game, but none experienced much success in guarding him.

However, Cousins was the only player on Sacramento that consistently found offense with ease. The rest of the Kings struggled to get into a rhythm, including Gay, who scored 15 points on 5-13 shooting. The game seemed to come much less smoothly to Gay and company – a credit to Toronto’s defense, which swarmed the ball throughout the night.

With Carl Landry out for the night, the Kings had little offense to call on from their bench. Their reserves scored 18 points total, 16 of which came from Ray McCallum and Reggie Evans, who have been finding the most success off the bench for Sacramento of late.

The Kings usually rely on most of their scoring from Cousins, Gay and Isaiah Thomas, though, and when two of them are underperforming, it falls to the bench to pick up the slack; 18 points simply wasn’t enough to make up for the starting lineup’s lack of offensive potency.

The Kings flubbed Gay’s return, but will have a chance at redemption Sunday in a similar situation, when they take on the Brooklyn Nets, who traded Evans to Sacramento at the February deadline.

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