If a home game against the 8-25 Kings (who came in 2-10 on the road) is a must-win, then you could say a home game against the Kings minus Tyreke Evans, and played at 10:00 a.m. to Sacramento’s biological clocks is a must-blowout.
In reality though, no NBA game should ever be taken for granted as a blowout, regardless of the two teams matching up.
On Sunday, the Raptors probably should have run away with the ball game, as they shot a scorching 58 per cent from the field and held the Kings to just 44 per cent shooting. However, two bad defensive quarters (The Raps gave up 66 combined points in the first and third quarters), 15 turnovers and a large free throw discrepancy made for an interesting game at the ACC.
After struggling to maintain a lead in the first quarter, the Raptors began to stretch the margin in the second quarter, leading by as many as nine at one point. It seemed the Raps were a play or two away from blowing the game open all day, but just couldn’t pull away.
A shaky third quarter actually saw the Kings take the lead and send the game into the fourth all tied at 85. The Toronto-faithful could feel another atrocious home loss on the horizon, but things played out as they should have in the fourth.
Though 112 points is way too many to give up to the lowly Kings, the Raptors were able to get timely stops in the final quarter, and received a boost from the clutch finishing of Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan and Leandro Barbosa.
Credit the Kings for hanging around all day with the odds seemingly stacked against them, and credit the Raptors for getting it done in the end.
As I wrote above, one of the factors keeping the game close was free throw shooting. The Raptors were as aggressive, if not more so, than the Kings all day. And yet it seemed they couldn’t buy a call. Sacramento attempted 34 free throws, while the Raps took just 23. Again, this wasn’t a case of the Kings earning more calls, but rather a case of some sketchy officiating. DeMar DeRozan, especially, was a victim today. He should have had eight-to-10 trips to the line, but was only rewarded with three.
On to some positives for the Raptors, as there were a number of them.
First and foremost, you had to enjoy watching the emerging duo of Bargnani and DeRozan kill the Kings late. Yes, I understand finishing off the Kings is nothing to brag about, but it still bodes well for the future to see Il Mago knocking down ice-cold daggers and DeRozan fearlessly attacking the basket with the game on the line. DeMar continues to impress, of late.
Jose Calderon had another solid day at the office as the team’s floor general, racking up 13 points and nine assists, while committing just one turnover. Leandro Barbosa recovered from a slow start to finish with 18 points off of the bench; many of which came late in the ball game.
Jerryd Bayless and Amir Johnson provided the warrior efforts of the day. Bayless still looked to be in some pain, but found a way to contribute 10 points and three dimes in just 15 minutes of action. As for Amir, with his back still giving him trouble, he battled his way to eight points and nine boards.
At the end of the day, the Raptors beat the third-worst team in the league, who were playing without their best player, to improve to eleven games below .500. It’s certainly far from a monumental victory.
But in a season where development is the key, the way the win came about was nice to see.
And speaking of the season in general, I would say most fans should be happy with how the campaign is unfolding. The kids seem to be slowly developing, the team has lost enough to be in position for a decent draft pick, and yet they have also won enough, in a very weak conference, to keep playoff hopes alive. Excitement without mortgaging the future; you can’t complain with that.
Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani -39 Min, 30 Pts, 12-19 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 4-5 FT, 8 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Blk
Kings Player of the Game: Beno Udrih -44 Min, 25 Pts, 9-17 FG, 3-4 3Pt, 4-6 FT, 4 Reb, 3 Ast, 4 Stl
Goat of the Game: Omri Casspi – 25 Min, 9 Pts, 3-11 FG, 1-5 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 3 Reb, 1 Stl (Casspi started to come alive late, but he was M.I.A. for much of the game, and he threw up some ugly bricks in the first half)