A total of 27 turnovers plagued the Sacramento Kings in their preseason opener, as a complete absence of offensive execution gave the Toronto Raptors more than enough opportunity to take a closely-contested game in the fourth quarter. The Kings lacked the most basic aspect of team basketball on Sunday night, as Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, and Nik Stauskas led the team in turnovers.
Ramon Sessions also contributed to the ball-protection woes with four turnovers, but was an integral part of the team’s success through the first three quarters of the match-up. He saw a team-high 29 minutes on Sunday night, and his constant involvement gives his assist-to-turnover ratio a bit more lee-way. His experienced presence showed on the court, as he used speed and aggression to prod the defense, something most of the team’s backcourt failed to do for a majority of the contest.
Thompson’s presence was virtually non-existent, as his five giveaways were completely unforced errors, which likely made Reggie Evans the front-runner in the power forward position battle. Thompson got the start, but his poor performance will likely have Coach Mike Malone reconsidering his frontcourt rotation.
While Thompson struggled all-around, Evans posted his usual consistent, reliable performance. He was aggressive on the boards, and didn’t take shots away from other Kings players with more polished skill offensively. He’s shown time and time again that he understands his role as a basketball player regardless of what system he is in, and it showed through with another all-around positive performance. He finished with 13 rebounds and four points on 1-for-1 shooting from the floor.
Stauskas, the Kings’ 2014 lottery pick, and a hopeful centerpiece to the ongoing rebuilding process for Sacramento, started the game on the bench, but made his presence felt as soon as he hit the floor. Whether it was felt in an overall positive or negative way is to be determined by the team’s coaching staff during film sessions, but it was felt nonetheless.
Stauskas checked into the game and nailed back-to-back three-pointers off catch-and-shoot situations; an immediate difference in his on-court demeanor could be seen when he put in the two buckets to give his team six quick points off the bench much to the dismay, I’m sure, of Ben McLemore. Stauskas’ turnovers, while costly, were clearly nothing more than a rookie still getting a feel for the professional layout of basketball. He took too many steps when driving to the basket, he stepped out of bounds, and felt the pressure of NBA defenders every time he had the ball. Regardless, his first professional experience was an all-around positive one. Even his defense was up to par, as he didn’t miss rotations and genuinely impressed his coaches by sticking with Kyle Lowry on the run, getting in front of him, and making a nagging contest in his face to force a miss in a transition situation. The battle for the shooting guard spot is still open, and Stauskas’ hat is in the ring.
Rudy Gay had a performance reminiscent of his time with the Raptors, one in which he dribbled the ball back and forth to avoid passing at all costs, then constantly spinning over his shoulder to throw up a highly-contested shot which makes his nine points on 3-for-11 shooting an obvious outcome of the mindless offensive performance.
Cousins was nothing special in this one either. He didn’t need to be. The high minute count to new Kings players makes it clear that preseason isn’t going to be an accurate representation of established talent when the games count. We all know how good Cousins has been and how good he will continue to be. He finished with 13 points on 5-from-9 shooting from the deck and seven rebounds.
Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams finished out the fourth quarter with game-clinching performances for the Raptors. They attacked the basket and ran together in transition. Vasquez’s passing display was a recall of his days as a rookie, and Williams’ scoring outburst clinched the game for Toronto.
The teams will play again on October 7 at Sleep Train Arena.