Game Preview: Raptors @ Kings

Holly MacKenzie -

The Raptors are in Sacramento to take on the Kings in the second game of a five-game road trip. After collecting a hard-fought 113-111 overtime victory against the Denver Nuggets, the team now looks to step up its defence and avenge an earlier loss to the Kings that happened on the ACC floor.

Tip-off: 9:00 P.M. ET

Broadcast Info: SN1 / SN590


Lacklustre previous meeting

The Kings defeated the Raptors 96-91 in a Nov. 6 meeting at the Air Canada Centre. It was Toronto’s second loss of the season and came without starter Jonas Valanciunas who missed the game with a sore left knee. Rudy Gay had 23 points to lead the Kings while DeMarcus Cousins added 22 points and 14 rebounds in one of two games so far this season where DeMar DeRozan didn’t score at least 30 points.

Toronto shot just 36 percent in that loss — including 23 percent from beyond the arc — while allowing the Kings to score 52 points in the paint. On Sunday they will be looking to get back to a defence-first mentality after showing lapses on that end of the floor in recent games.

Ross rolling

After Toronto’s overtime victory in Denver, DeMar DeRozan said that, “T-Ross won us this game tonight.” Although the team got solid efforts in the fourth and overtime from everyone on the floor, Ross’ outside shooting bailed out the team when they needed it most.

Showing up to training camp about 15 pounds lighter than a season before, Ross talked about wanting to feel quicker on the floor after bulking up during his rehab from ankle surgery last year. Through training camp, the lighter frame appeared to work for Ross, but Raptors head coach Dwane Casey talked about the need for consistency.

Through 11 games this season, Ross has provided a solid boost off the bench for Toronto. Beyond the 16-point performance (including 4-for-5 from beyond the arc) against the Nuggets, Ross is averaging 10.7 points per game on 49 percent shooting. He has been the team’s most efficient shooter from deep, making 46 percent of his three-pointers.

Casey calling for defence

The Raptors started their road trip off with a win, but for the second consecutive game, defensive lapses in the second quarter caused them to fall behind.

“Well, the thing about it is, we lost our defensive mentality,” Casey said. ‘We started the game with it, we got away from it, we got back to it toward the end but we have to understand that it is a 48-minute grind. We have to make sure that we maintain that mentality for 48 minutes and throughout every game in this league. There is no easy team in this league, I don’t care who you are or what the record is, everybody is out to knock you off of the mountain.”

Although the Raptors were able to dig themselves out of the hole on Friday against the Nuggets, Casey wants to clean up the mistakes his team is making on the defensive end of the floor before they become habit. The positives: It’s still very early in the season and that the defensive issues are not a secret. With commitment and focus they can be cleaned up.

“We understand,” Casey said. “We know exactly what we have to do and where the problems are defensively. Now the problem is executing. It is from the starting unit on down; it is everybody. Everybody has got to step it up defensively and we’ve told them that.”