Archive for the ‘Sacramento Kings’ Category

DeMarcus Cousins

Finally, a team the Raptors can beat! Not so fast — the Kings may be 8-25 but they’ve won three of their last five games now that Tyreke Evans is returning to his rookie season form and DeMarcus Cousins is starting to display the talent that led some people to believe he was one of the two best prospects in the 2010 draft.

Cousins will be the Kings’ go-to guy today because Evans is going to sit this one out because of a sprained ankle. This looks like a golden opportunity for Cousins to have his first 30-point game in the NBA. I actually consider today’s matchup between Cousins and Andrea Bargnani to be more interesting than whichever team actually wins this game.

Injury report

Toronto: Sonny Weems is out, but Jerryd Bayless will play today.

Sacramento: Evans is out as mentioned and Luther Head is probable with some kind of dentistry issue.

Five questions

1. Do the Raptors have an extra advantage on Sunday games at 1pm ET when under-21 players come to Toronto for the first time and take in our renowned nightlife? I’m looking at you, DeMarcus Cousins.

2. Will Cousins prove to be one of the two best players from the 2010 draft? In his last five games, he averaged 21.8 points, 9 rebounds and 2.8 assists. (On a related note: I ranked Cousins eighth in my January center power rankings.)

3. Who do you think will have more points today: Cousins or Bargnani?

4. Do you think Kings guard Eugene “Pooh” Jeter ever tries to act like he’s related to Derek Jeter to get some action?

5. Samuel Dalembert is reportedly unhappy in Sacramento and would welcome a trade. Would it be worthwhile for the Raptors to trade for him just so we could enjoy all the various ways that Leo Rautins would disparage him?

Start time: 1:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Joey Dorsey, Andrea Bargnani
Sacramento: Beno Udrih, Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins

Today’s pregame song is “The Distance” by Sacramento band Cake. I’ll probably use them a lot for Kings games because they’ve got a bunch of good songs and it’s not like they have a lot of hometown competition.

Jay Triano

Jay Triano suddenly realized that he would have to take off his shoes and socks to properly calculate the odds of his end-of-game plan working out. (Getty Images)

The boys from The Basketball Jones said in today’s episode that Raptors fans should be prepared to witness lots more collapses like last night’s debacle where the Raptors blew a third-quarter, 16-point lead, and I’m inclined to agree with them. In the first 30 minutes of the game, the Raptors played over their heads while the Kings played like hot garbage. Then Tyreke Evans started to heat up, his teammates gained confidence in front of their home crowd and the Raptors crumbled under the pressure. While the final margin of victory was just three points, the actual difference in talent between the two teams is much larger than that.

For the second time in three games, the Raptors had the ball while trailing by three points with the shot clock turned off at the end of the fourth quarter. Just as in the first game, the execution of that crucial possession was puzzling.

For obvious reasons, the Kings left the lane wide open — which is presumably why Linas Kleiza tried to drive to the basket. Theoretically, he could have scored there and then the Raptors could hope that whoever ended up taking the Kings’ next free throws ended up missing one or both of them. What I would like to know is if Jay Triano thinks this is a more high-percentage play in terms of trying to get into overtime than trying to tie it up in one possession with a contested three.

Let’s pull some arbitrary numbers out of thin air. What are the odds of the Raptors making a game-tying three-pointer in this type of possession. Maybe somewhere between 25 to 30 percent? Now, let’s estimate the odds of scoring a two-pointer in this situation. Although it’s a high-pressure, short-clock situation where the probability of scoring is lower, the Kings were leaving the lane fairly open so you could argue that the odds of the Raptors scoring a two-pointer would be around 50 percent.

After the Raptors make that two-pointer, what are the odds that the Kings are going to miss one of their free throws? Let’s say the Raptors foul a 70 percent free throw shooter on the Kings. Based on my extremely limited understanding of probability calculations (0.7 x 0.7 = 0.49), that means there would be roughly a 49 percent chance of the opposing player making both free throws, which means there would be a 51 percent chance he would miss at least one.

Of course, in that scenario, the Raptors still have to score one more time in the remaining time – probably between three and five seconds — and what are the odds of a team scoring a basket when they have fewer than five seconds to do so? I would argue that the odds are likely about the same as the odds of making that initial contested three — and that’s only after coming out on the lucky side of the first two-pointer and then the subsequent free throws.

Obviously, I don’t have the exact math here but doesn’t it seem like just shooting the three in that situation is the more sensible option? Is there a math major out there who wants to prove me wrong in the comments? I suppose there’s also the possibility that Triano actually wanted the Raptors to try to get off a three-pointer and Kleiza “went rogue”, but I don’t really want to ponder that.

Aside from the questionable logic of Kleiza’s drive, another major contributor to the Raptors’ collapse last night was Andrea Bargnani’s inability (or unwillingness) to box out. DeMarcus Cousins out-maneuvered Bargnani twice in the fourth quarter for offensive rebounds and he turned the first rebound into a layup and converted two free throws off of Bargnani’s foul after the second one. Here’s his second offensive board of the quarter, where both Bargnani and Kleiza failed to box out the big man with 2:14 on the clock and the Kings up by three.

As you can see, rather than execute a proper box-out, Bargnani tries to hold off the bigger, stronger Cousins with his arm — with predictable results. This is the problem with the argument that Reggie Evans’ nose for rebounds cancels out Bargnani’s aversion to them. Evans can’t help Bargnani box out in these situations, which is why he probably shouldn’t even be on the floor near the end of the fourth quarter in close games. Giving your opponent extra possessions in these situations is lethal.

It wasn’t all rainclouds and sad faces last night. DeMar DeRozan matched his career highs in both points (24) and free throw attempts (14) and it definitely appears he’s poised to take it up a notch this season. Here’s an encouraging clip of DeRozan making a help-side block and then burying a mid-range jumper off the break.

Triano set a goal for DeRozan to average eight free throw attempts per game this season and he’s averaging 7.3 attempts after three games. Of course, it remains to be seen if he can keep this up, but here’s the list of the 10 people who averaged at least 7.3 free throw attempts last season: Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Corey Maggette, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Martin. That would not be shoddy company to keep.

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Stomach problems and the Raptors' D couldn't stop Tyreke Evans from doing what he wanted do

New look, new youth, new team, but boy, do they still know how to blow it?

If you’ve watched any Raptors basketball over the last few years, you have become way too used to this. The Raptors come out flying on the road, probably the West coast, build up a sizable lead, slowly watch it fade in the third quarter, then totally kick the bucket in the fourth.

Tonight in Sacramento, Toronto found itself up 17 after one quarter and up 11 heading into the half. After allowing just 16 points in the first, the Raptors allowed at least 27 in each of the last three quarters.

The Raptors looked like they were going to hang in there in the third. Sacramento would cut into the lead, and the Raps would respond with a couple of big buckets to stretch it out to 15 or 16 again. However, as soon as Tyreke Evans re-entered the game (he sat out the first portion of the third with stomach problems), the tempo changed, and you could feel loss no. 2 coming. Don’t act like you weren’t thinking it.

There were some bright spots. DeMar DeRozan tied a career-high with 24 points and got to the line for 14 free throws, Andrea Bargnani continued to light it up offensively with 28 points, and Reggie Evans continued to pull down every rebound in sight, finishing with 19.

Having said that, there were negatives to match all of those. DeRozan missed some key free throws down the stretch, Bargnani grabbed two stinking rebounds, and let’s be honest, if Reggie Evans is your MVP through three games, your in rough, I mean nasty rough, shape.

I understand that this was a road game in a tough environment and it was the opposing team’s home opener, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the Raptors simply wilted, offensively and defensively. It’s not like they lost a tough road game that was close throughout; they lost a game that they had in their back pocket. And with all due respect to the young Kings, they’re still not good enough to justify that Raptors collapse.

To finish tonight, here’s a helpful tip for Jay Triano. Never, ever finish a close game with both Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani on the floor. It’s a suicidal duo. I counted five times between the two of them that they simply held back from a loose ball in the final five minutes or so. All five of those balls ended up in the Kings’ hands.

Raptors Player of the Game: Reggie Evans – 32 Min, 6 Pts, 2-6 FG, 2-5 FT, 19 Reb, 2 Ast (Guys like Bargnani, DeRozan and Kleiza wouldn’t have been able to score the way they did tonight had it not been for Reggie creating second and sometimes third-chance opportunities)

Kings Player of the Game: Tyreke Evans – 37 Min, 23 Pts, 9-6 FG, 5-7 FT, 7 Reb, 5 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Leandro Barbosa – 12 Min, 2 Pts, 1-6 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 3 Reb, 3 TO

Tyreke Evans

This is the first Raptors game of the season on Sportsnet ONE, which sucks for people who don’t have the channel — people like me. I am going to find a way to watch this game, even if I have to PVR the re-broadcast on NBA TV Canada and watch it tomorrow morning. There may be a way to watch this game online, although I can’t divulge that info because it’s frowned upon in certain areas of authority.

Eric Koreen of the National Post posted some interesting info about how the Raptors have performed on the West Coast in recent years — over the past five years, the Raptors have won just seven of 43 (16.2 percent) games played in the Mountain or Pacific time zones. Since the Raptors are visiting the Lakers, Jazz and Blazers after this game, they could find themselves in a 1-5 hole by next Sunday. (Cue Debbie Downer trombone.)

Five questions

1. Can the Raptors hold a third straight opponent under 100 points? They haven’t accomplished this since last December.

2. Is the Kings’ 2-1 record fools gold? Their two wins were by a combined four points over Minnesota and Cleveland.

3. Should Andrea Bargnani try to be aggressive in the post early in the game in an attempt to get DeMarcus Cousins in foul trouble? Cousins is averaging 4.7 fouls in 25.3 minutes per game so far.

4. Can the Raptors do a better job than last time at containing the Kings’ starting guard combo? Beno Udrih and Tyreke Evans combined for 43 points, 18 assists and 14 rebounds in Sacramento’s 113-90 win over Toronto on March 13.

5. Does reserve swingman Francisco Garcia know how to pose for photos with beautiful women? Why, yes he does.

Francisco Garcia

Start time: 10:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet ONE (Grrr!)
Liveblog: Holly MacKenzie on theScore.com and ScoreMobile
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jarrett Jack, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Reggie Evans, Andrea Bargnani
Sacramento: Beno Udrih, Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Carl Landry, DeMarcus Cousins

Tonight’s pregame song is “Rocket Skates” by Sacramento’s own Deftones. I’m starting to enjoy looking up local bands depending on who the Raptors are playing. I know this band’s been around for a while but this is somehow the first time I’ve listened to them. Thrashing good tunage!