SACRAMENTO – No matter what year it is, or who is wearing the Toronto uniform, there is something about this town that brings out the worst in the Raptors franchise.
Sacramento had swept the past two season series and lost only three times in 20 all-time meetings in California’s capital city heading into Sunday’s matinee meeting and a mostly young, overmatched Kings squad hung with Toronto until late in the fourth, before eventually falling 102-87.
For DeMar DeRozan, a Raptor since June of 2009, it was his first career victory here.
“I have no clue (how to explain it),” the all-star said after scoring a game-best 25 points, along with a season-high nine assists.
“It’s crazy, been in the league nine years and (hadn’t) won … I’m glad I got that monkey off my back.”
As usual, DeRozan had help from Kyle Lowry, who shot only 4-for-17 from the field but still might have been the best player on the floor. Lowry, definitely one of the smallest, led all with 12 rebounds, added six assists and took his 18th and 19th charges, nearly twice as many as anybody else (10) has managed in the NBA.
“That type of energy he brings to the table, you just can’t put a number on it,” said head coach Dwane Casey, victorious in his 500th career game with the club.
“One thing about Kyle, if his shot isn’t falling, he’ll effect the game in so many other ways that don’t show up in the stat sheet,” added DeRozan.
The entire starting Raptors group was strong in perhaps its most complete performance together so far this season. An energetic Serge Ibaka scored 20 points, Jonas Valanciunas had nine points and eight rebounds, OG Anunoby was +24 and the group needed it all, since the reserves had a second rough outing in the past three games, this time against the NBA’s highest-scoring bench (Sacramento’s reserves outscored Toronto’s 41-28).
“Serge had a good shooting game and DeMar had a good shooting game and (Jakob Poeltl) had a good shooting game. Everything else was like, ‘Ugh,’ but that’s a good win, man,” Lowry said.
“That shows a team effort.”
Toronto completes the back-to-back Monday night in Los Angeles against the Clippers, before heading to Phoenix for a game against the Suns on Wednesday.
The Raptors don’t go further West than the Central Time Zone or play four road games in a row again this season after this trip concludes.
Injured Raptors Delon Wright and Lucas Nogueira were getting shots up pre-game with their teammates.
“I don’t know, we don’t put a date on it, he did some 3-on-3 work and he’s getting closer, I don’t know exactly what date that is, but we’re excited,” Casey said of Wright. It has been just over three weeks since Wright dislocated his shoulder. ESPN projected his return at a month.
Nogueira likely will take longer to return from his torn calf.
With Fred VanVleet playing well and becoming a fourth quarter staple, reconfiguring the rotation to get Wright back in will be a challenge for Casey and his staff.
“Fred VanVleet’s doing a great job for us right now, that’s going to cause some decisions to be made in that situation,” Casey said.
The game was a 12:30 P.T. matinee, the earliest Kings game since Feb. 1, 2009 and Toronto jumped out to a 13-0 lead against the sleep-walking home side.
Toronto has had issues in early tips over the years, but Casey chose to see the game as a positive.
“This is good practice for us because if we’re fortunate enough to make the playoffs and get into the playoffs, we’ve been unfortunate and fortunate enough to play early games,” he said, charitably not pointing out how the NBA has disrespected the franchise in recent years by giving them the playoff commencing early games.
“So as many early games as we can play is good work”
AROUND THE RIM
Valanciunas hit his third career three-pointer (second this season) and backup centre Jakob Poeltl nailed his first since a heave while at Utah in the NCAA … Sacramento was without guard George Hill and centre Willie Cauley-Stein, two important regulars … One could make a credible argument that Vince Carter, DeRozan and Doug Christie are three of the four best swingmen in Raptors franchise history (with Tracy McGrady being the other, apologies to Anthony Parker, Alvin Robertson and Jalen Rose). All three were in the house at the still sparkling new Golden 1 Arena. Bonus: The Carter deal was the worst in franchise history and Christie for Corliss Williamson wasn’t far behind … A game after notching 41 fast-break points at Memphis, the most by the team since 2003, Toronto only scored 11.