The Sacramento Kings displayed a newly developed passing attack to slow down the Toronto Raptors in another preseason battle between the two teams. The first quarter brought frustration and poor execution for the Kings, but with a more methodical approach on offense came eventual success.
Mike Malone implemented Nik Stauskas into the starting lineup over Ben McLemore in this game, likely a way of comparing how each performs as a starter. The position battle will not be won by either player until well through the regular season, and they both made the decision a little tougher with impressive all-around performances tonight.
Stauskas’ three-point shooting is clearly more consistent than McLemore’s, which he displayed by knocking down both of the deep shots he took. His defense was never wavering, as he guarded Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan without missing any noticeable assignments. DeRozan was clearly too athletic for Stauskas to contain completely, but most of his transition baskets were as a result of his own speed on the break, not of a blown assignment.
McLemore came off the bench with a slow start but got in rhythm throughout the second half of the contest. He knocked down a couple of three-pointers and hit some mid-range shots, which he always seems to do after making just one good shot for his team. His defense against DeRozan was better than Stauskas’ as a result of his greater athletic ability, but neither player has distanced himself as a clear candidate for a starting job yet.
Toronto’s Kyle Lowry was the game’s best player, as he took advantage of Darren Collison who constantly went under screens rather than getting over them quickly to contest a three-point shot. He punished the Kings by putting in five long-range shots without much space, and he had a team-high six assists. The 2014-15 season will continue to see Lowry’s improvement as a point guard, and he showed that his jump shot has become one of the NBA’s best.
Darren Collison struggled with four turnovers which led to transition opportunities, and could not contain Lowry’s shooting display. As a starting point guard and one of the best players on the Kings’ roster, Collison will need to hold opposing guards to slower performances. He is likely going to be Sacramento’s starter but his minutes are all but guaranteed, especially with how well Ramon Sessions has played thus far in the preseason.
DeMarcus Cousins took advantage of an easy post match against Jonas Valanciunas. McLemore and Collison fed him inside for quick turnaround dunks and simple lay-ins, and Reggie Evans was there to clean up on the boards in case of a rare Cousins miss.
The most impressive aspect of the Kings’ performance tonight, though, was the San Antonio Spurs-like passing display they executed through the second half. Nik Stauskas, Omri Casspi, Darren Collison and Ben McLemore ate up Raptors’ defenders with stationary ball movement and extra passes which usually resulted in lay-ins or wide open jumpers. Malone mentioned emphasizing a new offense this year, and it seems to be working so far.
The Kings held off the Raptors to finish off the game and take a 113-106 victory. They now head to Shanghai, China, for match up against the Brooklyn Nets.